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April in the Pumpkin Patch

rotten pumpkin

We spent the afternoon in the garden composting everything that failed to survive the cold, cold winter. Last year’s pumpkins are flattened in the soil, but our ivy and herbs are starting to show fresh shoots of green. We have a lot of work to do if we hope to have the garden ready in time for our Easter egg hunt.

February Full Moon

Hunger Moon

He says years are only for counting, but
at some point, we stopped kissing
on the mouth. Years like acres of wood.
Trees cut—years we needed the money.
Silt runs down off the hill where the trees
used to be, turns the bathwater gritty
and gray. On the front porch, moths
still dance. The floodlight imitates
the moon. On the back porch, a damp
rotting woodpile. He showed me how to count
years by the rings in the trunk, but
he didn’t need to show me how to count.
Years by leaves in the gutters,
by the space between us in bed.

Grateful for Ramps

Ramp Festival

Well, last Saturday, my ramp festival dreams were realized.  Fellow County Line Press collaborators Jessica, Patrick, and I left Pittsburgh for the Mason Dixon Ramp Festival in Mount Morris, Pennsylvania, and, one hour later, we were marveling at the variety of ramp delicacies and the enthusiasm of the other ramp lovers at the festival.

We spent the day in a rural wonderland.  Patrick tried his luck at hatchet-throwing, and I contemplated alpacas as a replacement for sheep on my future farm.  County Line Press hopes to participate with a booth next year, inspired as we were by the festival’s craftspeople and their wares.

We bought local honey, ramp relish, raspberry jam, and, of course, freshly picked ramps (their roots still filled with dirt).  In the past week, I have distributed ramps to friends and coworkers, and cooked with them multiple times.  At the festival, and at home, the favorite method of preparation was ramps fried with potatoes.

I still have the last of my batch remaining; so I might try my hand at posting the first County Line Press recipe in the coming days.  Patrick will, I’m sure, have his own insights on the ramp festival.  I saw him taking many photographs as fodder for his blog post.



Every spring, all throughout the Appalachians, ramps–the garlicky cousins of the onion–abound.  Also ubiquitous are ramp festivals, held in many rural municipalities, where ramps are served up raw, fried with bacon, or layered on sandwiches.

It has become my very recent dream to attend a ramp festival this spring, and I have been searching for festivals nearby.  The closest I’ve come is the Mason-Dixon Ramp Festival in Greene County, Pennsylvania. This year’s festival is April 18th & 19th and advertises ramp wine, ramp cheese, and ramp burgers!

In my search, I stumbled upon countless ramp festival websites with various pieces of useful information. Tennessee’s Flag Pond Ramp Festival website sheds some light on lesser-known-qualities of the wild leek.  “Appalachian mountain folk,” they say, “treated insect bites with juice from wild ramps.” Richwood, West Virginia, “the heart of ramp country,” provides a wonderful listing of 2009 festivals, and the Polk County Ramp Tramp Festival schedules events for digging and preparing the ramps prior to the big weekend.

I am enamored with the whole idea of ramps and ramp festivals. It unites my rural interest with my even greater love of food. Please check back on the ramp front. I plan on fulfilling my dream of attending a festival as soon as possible, and, once I do, I will be certain to provide recipes and more ramp facts.

Promising Decay


I’ve noticed that I’m becoming more and more attracted to decay. Overgrown gardens, junk-yards, caving porches. Maybe it has to do with surrender. Forfeiting control. Decay of man-made structures and objects is an outward manifestation of communion with the natural environment. In The Unsettling of America, Wendell Berry describes the soil as both beginning and end of the life cycle of the earth. He acknowledges that most humans do their best to keep their bodies from returning to dirt. There is a fear of returning, of communion, with the soil. I can almost picture future arguments with loved ones were I to advocate a “green burial” for a family member. But what is the root of this fear?

Contemporary culture favors the scrubbed and polished, the shiny and new. The comparisons between the current economic downturn and the Great Depression are never ending, but America has yet to embrace a “dust bowl” aesthetic. Maybe we should. Maybe it’s time we surrendered. Let the patio furniture rust. Stop cutting the grass.

Last week, my mother and I went “antiquing” in the Laurel Highlands. Along the way, I found promising instances of decay. I found nature creeping up and settling in.


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