Garden Bloggers' Muse Day March 1, 2009

Annual Miracle
by Edward J. Fitzgerald

This is the brittle season. Darkly
The dry leaves lift their barren
branches high
And scratch against a gray and

leaden sky.
The world lies stiff and frozen. Chill
winds blow
From every hilltop, and the eye can
No sign in shrub or grass or leafless
Of slow revolving seasons or of
Stirring beneath the brittle shell of
Nor is there hope of change till
The green heart of the world starts
The distant baying of the hounds of

I found this piece by Edward Fitzgerald, a Victorian writer from Suffolk, England, in the March 1939 issue of Ladies' Home Journal. Although not known for writing "nature" poetry, evidence of it existed in his letters to friends:

"I get radishes to eat for breakfast of a morning: with them comes a savour of earth that brings all the delicious gardens of the world back into one's soul, and almost draws tears from my eyes."

"The trees murmur a continuous soft chorus to the solo which my soul discourses in."

Visit Carolyn who hosts Garden Bloggers' Muse Day on the first day of the month: http://sweethomeandgardenchicago.blogspot.com/

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I bought a set of Ladies' Home Journal issues from the 1930s and '40s for my mother last year. In these issues one of my mother's favorite Connecticut writers Gladys Taber has her column "Diary of Domesticity", an informal account of country living, pets, family, gardening, and cooking. She wrote of the changing New England seasons and the sophisticated beauty of New York City. Lemonade punch with thin orange slices and Virginia style fried chicken. The vulnerability of love and the intangibility of the pursuit of happiness.

Taber's column in the March 1939 issue includes her musings over the fields around her home. She writes,

I walked over the fields last Sunday, where all the hollows are dark with water and the winter grasses hide the green growing shoots. Green is laid over the hills like a low wave; the swamp has a new color, red and yellow budding bushes. There is a kind of delicate mist along the trees, and the old gray rocks in the pasture are wet as seals.

Farther north than Taber's Stillmeadow farm, we've yet to see the green laid over the hills and the yellow budding bushes. But the pussy willow I went outside to photograph this morning has swelling buds despite another nor'easter pummeling up the east coast setting sights for a direct hit over New England by tomorrow morning.

I did buy these magazines for my mother. But they've since come back to sit here in my study, instead of on the shelves in her home, where I find myself consulting them for one reason or another. I also have one of her Gladys Taber cookbooks with our favorite "Company Chicken" and "Old-Fashioned Applesauce Bars" recipes. This cookbook is full of good reading as well as good recipes.

Polly and Hugh Johnson have a house in Wellfleet, overlooking the magical expanse of the salt marsh, laced with silver streams. One could sit all day and watch the mystery of the marsh, but Polly finds everyone who comes in is always hungry and she likes to have freshly baked bread on hand!

Old-Fashioned Applesauce Bars (My Own Cook Book From Stillmeadow and Cape Cod, Gladys Taber)
½ c butter
¾ c sugar
1 egg
½ c thick applesauce
1 tsp vanilla
1 ¼ c unsifted flour
½ tsp soda
½ tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp cloves
½ c chopped walnuts
½ c golden raisins
Cream butter and sugar. Add egg and beat well. Add applesauce and vanilla, and blend. Sift four, soda, salt, and spices. Add to creamed mixture and blend well. Stir in nuts and raisins. Spread in a greased and flowered pan 13”x9”x2”. The batter will be stiff. Bake in a 350 degree oven about 25 minutes. Cool slightly. Dust with confectioner’s sugar.
MAKES 30 bars 3”x1”.
These are from Mabel’s kitchen. She says she sometimes uses light brown sugar, omits the cloves and adds 1 teaspoon of instant coffee. The cookie bars stay fresh in a tight container and also pack well.


  1. A great choice of poem and photo for GBMD Anne. I especially liked the phrase 'the green heart of the world'. The 'Ladies Home Journal' issues sound like a treasure trove. I imagine that the sight of swelling pussy willow buds must have filled your heart with joy. Have you tried out that rather tempting cookie recipe yet ? Just perfect comfort food for the season :)

  2. Mmmm. What a shame we don't have real multi-media and I can smell those Applesauce bars (I hope you made some). ;->

  3. Hi Ann, so much here to munch on! The writings and poetry, the thought of old woman's lifestyle magazines and a delicious recipe make this a well rounded post! Thanks. :-)

  4. A 'brittle season' indeed, Ann. A touching post by Fitzgerald, perfect for March. 'Stirring beneath the brittle shell of
    earth', is exactly how I feel viewing my (like yours) 3/4 acre perennial gardens. Thank you for sharing (the Applesauce Bars are tempting)!

  5. So my blog entry this morning was a musing one - and i didn't even know there was a muse day. Thanks for the poem and poetic words - and also for the music. The Donovan song so took me back to my musing adolescence in the late sixties. I love the spider picture below. I didn't read the recipe though. Food I can live without - poetry, never! (hehe!)

  6. Hi Ann,
    I like the choice of poetry and material you've shared for GBMD...how nice to see pussy willow buds! Today, they are probably hidden away under a blanket of white...but hopefully this will be your last storm. We got this one too...and I'll be happy when the snow melts and I can get back to my garden planning! Very cool about the LHJ and if you're like me, everything you've given your mom comes back to you;-)

  7. Mmm, I bet applesauce bars would be tasty. I planted 8 apple trees for my mini orchard out back, so in a couple years, I'm going to be trying all sorts of apple recipes. Of course, some of those apples will be turned into hard cider and apple wine. ;)