Sunday, July 10, 2011

My Friend Brien

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Already after 6 here on the mountain. A thin layer of blue-grey clouds slides across the horizon as the sun pushes hard on eastern bedclothes and climbs above Peacham Pond. Like the sunshine, I am having a hard time getting started today..... in contrast to Gail who has already walked the dog and had a conversation with neighbor Michelle. Dishes rattle in the kitchen and it sounds like a combination of unloading the dishwasher and making pancakes at the same time.

There are many, many reasons to live in Vermont and one of them is the people who have grown up here. They're a funny lot and something that I have yet to figure out in the almost 60 years I have lived here. It's probably not different than anywhere else but people either like you or they don't and if they like you, they never seem to forget you and they always find time to help. When we moved to Vermont in the early 50's, things were not good for us. My dad had no work and my mom was sick a bunch. Two nearby farmers and their families helped us get through tough times and yet each was like night and day and had interesting things to say about each other. One farm raised holsteins and ran Farmall tractors. The other had Jerseys and a couple odd Guernseys and ran Fords. Both families worked very hard and were generous to us. But even as a little kid it appeared to me that they didn't like each other.

Back in the early 90's when we gardened at the house, Gail started having spring "potting parties" where she'd find local people to help plant and they'd come and work like crazy and have a late lunch with us. "Late lunch" to Gail meant lunch at 2 PM. She always had a theory that if you fed people early, they'd stop working and go home. One of the couples who always came were Brien (with an"e") and Jeanne Ducharme.

When we bought the nursery property and began to build gardens, I had it in my mind that we needed a good looking daylily garden adjacent to Route 2. I found a contractor down the road with a hillside full of free stone and Brien volunteered to appear with his cherry picker and place loads of stone wherever we wanted. This was back in 2007. Here are pictures of that time.....the last day Brien used his log truck before he sold it and retired. I'll never forget that day as he appeared in mid afternoon asking if we still wanted stone as he was retiring the next day. When we said we would like stone, he went to work until the job was finished. I photographed the entire event and framed up a picture of that last job for him and the picture has prominence in his house--something he really likes.

Brien and Jeanne like to garden and although Jeanne is just recovering from a serious stroke, Brien continues to garden both flowers and vegetables and he continues to be the kind, generous person he is. He stopped the other day looking for me. He wanted me to come see his native lilies which he knows I like a lot. He rescued some Lilium canadense and planted them in his garden. There are some variations of the yellow, some with a red collar, and one beautiful plant of plain red.

I tried to visit the other day just as a big storm was starting to blow. I had to leave in haste but got back there yesterday. These are some of the nicest examples of canadense you'll find. The red variety is very uncommon around here and I'm hoping it sets good seed so Brien can get more going. He knows a lot about soil and has a good aged manure source down Hollister Hill Road way that he taps into each spring. He keeps the soil friable and damp and the canadense think they are home along the Winooski River.

Not everyone gets a personal invitation to see these flowers and that means a lot to me. I like Brien and I'm happy Jeanne is making good progress. This is a couple who has traveled around the world, square danced with the best, cooked meals for local seniors and worked real hard. They are part of what I like about Vermont and I'm pleased to be able to say they are my friends. I hope you have Vermont friends like this too. They're special like their lilies!!

Writing from the mountain above Peacham Pond where two ravens are chastising me for not getting to work yet. I have to get going. You should too!

George Africa
The Vermont Gardener
Vermont Flower Farm
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Visit us in Marshfield. We'll help you grow your green thumb!

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