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April 27, 2008

California mulching

Filed under: Mr. Henry,Mrs. Henry — Mr. Henry @ 2:00 pm

Lately Mr. Henry has been thinking a lot about dirt.

Riverside Park has exploded with flowering plants that must have been stirring in the dirt for some time, unseen and unheard, because last week all at once they burst forth in a simultaneous crescendo, intoxicating each stroller, jogger, and rollerblader. Walking along the Hudson this morning Mr. Henry was nearly overcome by the cherry and crab apple blossoms. The air was thick and its perfume was rapturous.cherryblossoms.jpg

Last week, as well, the wet earth began to exude a loamy aroma, a black bouquet captured in truffles, red wine, roquefort, and root vegetables.

There is nourishment in dirt, and not just nourishment for the body. Working a garden, aerating the soil, planting, trimming, mulching, bending over for hours, these are activities that soothe the soul. (Your back may remember them differently, however.)

As she does every year at springtime, Mrs. Henry once again announced her resolve to move back to California. When asked just why she feels this compulsion, she responds opaquely, “Wouldn’t you prefer to live in California?” as if such sentiment were self-evident to anyone with half a wit.manzanita_bark_lg.jpg

Televised images of redwood forests stir her vitals. At the merest mention of avocados, manzanita, or heirloom tomatoes she whirls dervish-ly around the kitchen issuing grim promises to cabinets and countertops that pretty soon she’s moving back west to start a garden.

Little Henry greets these seasonal pronouncements with an eye rolled heavenward and a deep sigh identical to the sigh Mrs. Henry has perfected through years of practice.

There is nothing much to eat in the market this month that is fresh, but no matter. Morning and evening, together with his noble hound Pepper, Mr. Henry bathes in the smell of cherry blossoms in the park. The vapors of spring substitute for the fruits of summer.

For dinner he buys a simple chop and opens a simple bottle of wine. He roasts baby Yukon gold potatoes and tosses french beans in parsley. The evening walk is so gentle and kind that he does not seek complications at the table.
Offbeat spring salads have begun to appear – mâche and baby arugula – welcome treats after winter’s steady diet of romaine. If Mrs. Henry had a garden right now, she might dig out greens that had “wintered over.”

Earthworms are wriggling. Hibernating amphibians are exhuming themselves. Migrating songbirds are arriving and building nests. Mrs. Henry is muttering and baking banana bread. Mr. Henry hides quietly in his study.


  1. Hold out. It’s a terrible place.

    Comment by Judith in Umbria — April 29, 2008 @ 1:41 pm

  2. I’m guessing from the redwoods reference, NorCal is where she would like to go.

    There are few places in the US as lovely as NoCal, IMHO. And the fresh produce? Peerless. And you would have easy access to The French Laundry. Need I say more?

    Hold onto the dream, Mrs. Henry, hold onto the dream!

    Comment by Glinda — April 29, 2008 @ 1:53 pm

  3. I can only assume that Mrs. Henry is from California originally. As an eighth generation California native who has moved away and moved back, I can only say that as wacky as this place can be, there is simply something about it.

    As a gardener, there is simply no comparison. My great-grandmother could grow anything in her little garden in Santa Cruz (I mean even seeds from dried flower arrangements). My grandmothers grew every flower and vegetable you can imagine in Northern California. My mother can make a garden luxurious in the San Joaquin Valley heat.

    When I met my husband and moved to Southern California a whole new tropical palette opened up to me. Instead of focusing on the congestion, I focused on my garden. I now have a full vegetable garden as well as stone fruits, avocados, olives, guava, mango and banana. It’s easy to complain about the traffic, but I prefer to remember that my early plums will be ripe soon while my friends in Brooklyn are still waiting to plant tomatoes. Am I gloating? Yep…little bit.

    Comment by Eilish — May 2, 2008 @ 11:34 pm

  4. I came home late yesterday, kicked off my red patent Manolos and settled in to read my favorite shoe blog, wherein I discovered that The Manolo has a food blog under his Vuitton umbrella. Bliss. I intend to spend this afternoon wallowing in the archives.

    Comment by Casey — May 3, 2008 @ 10:00 am

  5. It’s too expensive, the politics are very not me, people are rude, it’s too crowded, um… all that stuff.

    But I just got a heavenly half flat of strawberries from the farmer’s market 5 minutes down the road, and yesterday I went to the ultimate in geeky craftiness, the Maker Faire. I so want to move away from here, but I can’t imagine not having these experiences. And these strawberries.

    Comment by silvermine — May 4, 2008 @ 2:02 pm

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