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About 85 or 90 pounds ago, maybe more, this green stuff started almost jumping out of the ground where the Connors or the Woods once had their dairy barn. It's the plot where the late Hal Strickland  and his wife Frannie first planted asparagus about, I think 40 years ago. Maybe a little more. They bought the farm for less than $200 an acre, and probably within a few years were growing prize-winning asparagus, at least in our minds. Frannie hauled a bunch of it to Greensboro for years while it was coming up, and gave away, I'd guess, several thousand pounds of it over the years. I know we carried a couple hundred pounds of it during its 8-10 week growing season during our working years.

But at a certain point you have to let the asparagus patch go. After Hal died, we made the asparagus patch smaller and easier to maintain. Or so we thought.  Still takes a lot of work to keep it weeded (we're behind) and whack back the encroaching foliage from the field (we're a bit ahead on that) and you still have to do everything else that goes with minding an asparagus patch, a sizeable blueberry patch and the vegetable garden down by the creek. I don't see how the Stricklands managed to keep it all going in their advancing years, but one thing was obvious: they spent a lot of time and effort on it. Just plain hard backbreaking work.

Last week, blessedly, we cut the last 14.8 ounces of asparagus and shared it with neighbors who were frying up some fresh-caught bream and bass from the pond. Now it's in full fern, as you can see:

Over the winter, we dug up some blueberry bushes Hal had planted on an Eastern-facing slope years ago. They bore some berries, but not a lot, and Hal asked me to transplant them when I could. But the time I got around to it, they were so large I needed an industrial-sized backhoe to dig 'em up. So we pruned four of them to manageable size, dug up most of that, whacked them into smaller pieces and potted some for replanting (two will go to our niece in honor of her baby daughter, Fiona Grace) next year and put four or five into the big blueberry patch on a Western-facing slope. To our utter astonishment, they all are still alive and  putting out foliage, and three of them have a few berries on them.

A couple days ago I noticed that one of the older, early bushes was blushing — from green to pink and ruddy and running on toward that purplish sweetness that tells you in a couple more days there will be magic on the table again. Here's a picture of the early berries, not far from being ready. Well, okay, maybe a little longer than that. I'm an optimist when it comes to berries, and I'm looking forward to dressing up my morning Cheerios this summer, and my winter oatmeal come December, with a big pile of 'em.

Jack Betts

Jack Betts is retired associate editor of The Charlotte Observer.

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