News From National – Faith Tiberio, President

So many of you have asked me for another “sample” of things that might go into our memories book, that this Christmas season I thought you would enjoy the following.

            “It will be artistic,” my mother said. “Very Artistic”

             “I never heard of anything like it,” my father objected when he returned from feeding the chickens. “I’ve been thinking about the upcoming Christmas light contest sponsored by the Power and Light Company, but nothing like that entered my head.”

The early ‘30’s in St. Augustine where we fled from the cold of the farm near Lake Erie [chickens, ducks, rabbits and all] penned and trucked with us suffered from the Depression like the rest of the country. But this economic change energized the citizens of the oldest city. Efforts to attract tourist doubled, Christmas time and the contests for a prize winning outdoor-lighted tree became a battleground on residential streets among the householders.

            “You must get a good-sized tree from the woodlot,” Mother said. “Old Moses will help you.”

Now, Moses, our gardener, lived in one of those wooden cottages behind the National Cemetery; the ground around them remained swept clean to the bare earth and very neat, watched over by a few Chinaberry trees. But that morning Moses did not come to work,

Father returned from the woodlot with a fine green pine tree tied to the top of our ’29 black Ford sedan, but he stormed into the house, furious. “Someone,” he said, “got into our wood lot and cut off our beautiful Holly tree. Nothing left there now but a stump.”

            “Never mind,” Mother said. “We have a lot of balloons to blow up.  Oh, the tree will be grand …… So artistic.”

 She enlisted St. Augustine’s leading historian who liked chickens and talking to my father.  She gave him a huge bowl of popcorn balls and inveighed them to blow up multi-colored rubber balloons, and to fasten them painstakingly to strings of colored lights.

When we finished the last balloon neither man could eat any popcorn and had soup for lunch. In the afternoon, Moses dropped by to wish us a happy Christmas. He eyed our tree on the front porch. “Mother said, “When we turn on the electricity, the balloons will look like huge colored balls.”

Moses said, “I didn’t need any lights. I just got myself a beautiful holly tree from your lot. I knew you wouldn’t mind and I didn’t have money for a bought one. The berries make the trimming and the birds can have something too.

My father paled.  Then his face got very red. He swallowed hard. Then his face broke in a smile.  “Merry Christmas, Moses,” he said. “Bless you and yours.”

That night, Mother plugged in the Christmas tree lights and stood breathless. All the balloons lighted up for one glorious, exquisite moment. Then they burst like rapid gunfire. The smell of burning rubber, wisps of smoke and hissing sounds filled the air and alarmed the chickens, pandemonium.

 Mother cried.  My father comforted her and wisely refrained from comment. In the end, the tree stood forlorn but adorned with a few popcorn balls. If the light company judges even saw the tree, it would have been a miracle.

On Christmas morning there was but a single egg in the chicken coop. Somehow, it seemed symbolic but father wisely refrained from reporting it. And at Christmas dinner, Mother said, “Well, in my heart, I knew it was artistic, very artistic.”

Outside, our Rhode Island Red Rooster crowed.

At holiday time, Insanity is hereditary. You can get it from your grandchildren.

The photo on the back of the cover of our great “Bee Issue” had been assembled and photographed by Bruce Crossman from some “homey” things stored in our old barn. Bruce is a most accomplished photographer and after several shots, he was finally satisfied and sent the back cover picture to Kathy Beveridge who did the rest. Our thanks to both of them.

It seems to be the consensus that unless something horrific and unexpected befalls us, the Council Meeting can be conducted by e-mail or mail or telephone. At this moment our main concern are getting the budget together and Kay Engelhart, Peggy Campbell, Carol Leonard and Margaret Latham are comfortable in contacting you all this way to save expense and inconvenience of travel during the winter months.

But speaking of Spring … and Spring in my soul, we’re moving forward with plans for our June meeting and renewing our friendship with each other.

Your newsletters, phone calls, e-mails and letters continue to underline your determination to make Farm and Garden a viable, marvelous spectacular Green Surge as we move into the beginning new year.

Betty Monahan has been on the lookout for future speakers. And on our home front, our admired Hazel Herring, chairman of the Ambler project was reported purchasing and setting up beehives and we have sent her the bee pin, which Mary Falkenberg has also earned. Hazel has some good honey recipes.

Audrey Erhler reports that she is in conversations with our people at the National Arboretum, regarding the next summer’s interns: while Mary Bertolini is working on our June Meeting and is very eager to have a complete Orientations Sessions for new members and for others who want to “brush up” on what’s new. She is also wisely holding off a bit before making any final choices about pricing, in case the economic situation changes in the next few months. We’re especially watching the falling prices of Maine lobster … very hard on the fisherman I’m afraid but may be a plus for us in June. It’s hard to imagine that the native Maine and Massachusetts Indians [Maine as part of Massachusetts until 1820] used lobster as fertilizer for their corn.

Best to all for the holidays.