Birney Imes: Farmers' market ramble

June 8, 2013 9:47:08 PM

Birney Imes - [email protected]


Had you been at the Hitching Lot Farmers Market Saturday morning you might have seen a young woman in a long, hot pink skirt carrying a small pig. Not to be outdone, the pig had a bright pink halter and matching leash. 


You could have bought a raspberry rhubarb pie from Starla Strait a Mennonite woman, who was selling pecan pies, strawberry-rhubarb pies and pecan sticky buns of her own making along with jars of light amber honey with the honeycomb still in it. The pies were $8 and the honey $13 a quart. Starla figures the honey came from privet and clover. Our bees are busy, too, and soon we will be awash in honey ourselves, so I didn't get any.  


The golden translucence of Starla's honey, the fruit of the bees' industry, was a thing of beauty. I now wish I'd gotten a jar of it if only to set on the window sill and admire its golden translucence. 


I did get from Shirley Andrews what she called a mailbox plant. Shirley has a groundhog nursery (my term) in her backyard, which is just off 18th Avenue North near Me and Mrs. Jones Beauty Salon. Shirley always has interesting plants and interesting names for them. Seems I got a pork chop plant (or was it a hambone?) from her last year. 


Shirley is not the only one to resort to the vernacular in naming plants. My mother who was a master gardener long before there was such a thing has always called spiderwort "railroad-track plant." 


"When I was a little girl we went out to Family Camp and those spiderwort were growing all along the railroad tracks," she told me when I called to ask about it Saturday afternoon. "That's what I've always called it. When I started giving garden club talks I'd call spiderwort 'railroad track plant.'" 


My mother grew up in a big family -- the McClanahans; In summers they migrated to "Family Camp" a scattering of screened cabins in a malarial rain forest off what is now Military Road. Each family had its own cabin, and there was a community hall where everyone gathered for meals. The men, who for the most part worked construction at D.S. McClanahan and Sons, went to town during the day while the women and children socialized and swam in nearby Luxapalila Creek. 


By the time my generation of McClanahan descendants came along "Family Camp" was an occasional Saturday night barbecue. The adults sat around and talked while we kids ran amok through the woods. When time came to go home, and if it was still daylight, my mother would stop at a wading pool fed by an overflowing well to gather a handful of watercress that grew there. 


But back to the railroad-track plant, which was very much in evidence around town a few weeks back (you see it growing in ditches, along railroad tracks [still] and occasionally in yards; they look like over-sized wild onions with a small blue/lavender bloom), a horticulturist friend told me to pull mine up immediately; she equates it with bamboo for its invasiveness. 


And speaking of bamboo, Troy Slate, whose business card declares him a freelance artist, was selling flutes made of what looked to be bamboo at Saturday's market, only they were of river cane. Bamboo, says Slate, gets thicker with age and is more difficult to work with. River cane grows to a certain thickness then grows upward. 


A commercial artist and a wood carver, Slate stumbled across the cane while gathering wood. He'd read about Cherokee Indians making musical instruments with the stuff, and figured he could too. 


Farmers' market supervisor Tony Rose, another groundhog nurseryman, had moon flower vine for sale. If you know what moon flower vine is, you don't need a sales pitch; if you don't, I encourage you to shell out $2 (3 for $5) and get one from Tony.  


Find a fence to plant it next to and water the plant every now and then until it gets its legs under it. Once mature the vine will produce nocturnal flowers that resemble a white silk handkerchief. They're fabulous. Each morning it will shed the flowers and that evening grow them anew. Get one and do as I say. 


When they come up and start blooming, take your drink out in the yard in the evening and stand before it. Feel the blanket of heat around you; listen to the frogs croaking in your neighbor's yard; look up at the night sky and marvel at the richness that is Mississippi in the summertime. 


Birney Imes III is the immediate past publisher of The Dispatch.