Merlot Mudpies

Can a blog be about gardening, cancer, family, food and life all at the same time? Oh good.

Caterpillars, Seedlings, and Blueberries April 5, 2008

Amongst the pincher bugs (evil) and snails (slimy) we found while tearing out nettle and other weeds from C10 yesterday, Teri and I found caterpillars. The big, black, furry kind with cute little feet that look like they are wearing boots. It dawned on me, when I felt immediate nostalgia and glee, that Eamonn had never seen a caterpillar before save in the book The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle. A little fearful of his being crushed, I picked the little being up in my gloved hand and called Eamonn over to see.

At first he was a little alarmed and not quite sure that he wanted to touch it. But after some coaxing, he held out his hand and ever so gently held the caterpillar for closer inspection. The caterpillar climbed along, rearing up the way they do, and traveled its way up Eamonn’s arm, much to his ticklish delight. He started giggling and, more softly than I would have thought possible, picked the little guy up and set him back down on his palm again. We finally set him on a leaf and then crouched together to watch him sniff around for a good bite. We looked at his funny feet and laughed at the way he moved.

Eamonn trotted off to watch Dick till another plot, but came back over and over again to check on the “Cah-piw”.

This could not be a simpler thing and it could not bring me more joy than it does in remembering it: Before she had gotten ill again, my mom and dad went on a 3-week-long road trip up the coast and all over the western states. While they were gone my sisters and I were going to be feeding the cat and watching over my mom’s yard for her. When we got there the first day, each of us encountered the same thing on the kitchen table and just about killed ourselves laughing about it later.

There on the table with 3 pages of instructions was a lizard skin Mom had found in the backyard. “I found this in the yard,” the last part of her instructions said, “and I just know that the girls would love to see it!!” To Mom, a lizard skin was just as important as whether or not the cat got fed and her plants got watered and the door got locked when we left.

On her computer after she died, we found a file on her computer that had the title, “Interesting things and wonderfullies”. In it were sub-folders titled, “Birds,” “Reptiles,” “Fungi” and “People”. In that order.

My mom retained wonder all through her life. I think I’ve regained some of it. Eamonn is learning it and it’s a beautiful thing to see and share these things with him.


As you may recall, Ella and I planted a ton of seeds the day my mother went into the hospital. I never for a second thought they’d really make it all that well. At the most I thought that one or two would sprout and, if I was lucky, might even survive. After a few days I gave up hope and, while cleaning up in the back yard, emptied several of the little pots into a bin of potting soil I was collecting.

Low and behold, when I looked down — SEEDLINGS! A bunch of them! I screamed, right out loud like a ninny, and leaped to gingerly pull them back out and replant them in the pots I’d dumped, figuring they were for SURE goners after that.

But no, several days later, little seedlings started to push through the soil much to my and Ella’s delight. “AUNT MARY! LOOK!” she would holler from across the yard any time we remembered they needed to be watered. But these guys just keep living, growing, and now are pushing out their true leaves. Between three growing pots, I had over 20 seedlings when I’d barely hoped for two.

Today, with more patience than I ever thought I possessed, I took a thin sushi chopstick (gardeners all over the world are scratching their heads at me, I’m sure) and gently dug up the seedling clots, and managed to untangle their incredibly long roots with only one break of which I’m aware.

Here is the result along with some basil I rooted from a pack I didn’t entirely use, and a pineapple top I can’t bring myself to throw away. Ahem. I also have an avocado seed on my window sill right now. I wonder if there is truth to my brother’s claim that you can NEVER grow a store bought avocado and get fruit off its resulting tree? Though, come to think of it, this one was off my friend’s tree…hmm…anyway, my sad little excuse for a seedling tray:


Lastly, my self-pollinating Top Hat Blueberry arrived today. Who knew blueberry flowers were so pretty??


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