Wednesday, July 11, 2012

That Stubborn Patch of Rhubarb

Here's a story.  It's not even a long story with great pics, but one that merits telling.  Yesterday you met my last living Grandparent. And while my Grandparents have passed from my father's side, I still make the journey to their old home when I get the chance.  A lot of things have changed in their neighborhood.  Several years ago, I told you the story about overeating the pears in my Grandparent's garden and also mentioned that stubborn patch of rhubarb that grew in their garden.  I went back to their old property to see if that patch of rhubarb was still there.
This used to be prairie land. A little wetlands was found in the middle of this road.  Now it's ugly little boxes.
The new owner wasn't home and we didn't trespass, but I knew a way to get to the very far backyard and check out what was growing since my Grandmother's passing in 2009.   I was shocked to see what they've done to the prairie/wetland behind their house on this visit!!!  As a kid growing up, we played in the fields behind their house and went to the little stream/pond area that was full of critters.  I tried to navigate the area from memory on these roads through the maze of homes.  Almost every single piece of this large area was covered with suburbia and it broke my heart.  The days of the wild pheasants are over.  They used to roam this area freely and lived in a secret wooded area that very few knew about.  Most people have forgotten that the pheasant used to live in this neighborhood but my memory is long.  Today people denied they ever existed.  While not native to Wisconsin, they used to be numerous in most of the state.  Due to wetland loss, predators, etc, this bird is sadly declining in numbers.  They estimate less than 200,000 of these birds now in the wild around the state. Source 
This is the only area untouched.  A lot full of trees.  It was also home to the many pheasant that roosted in the branches of these trees.  This is very cool discovery and like the sign says..."Private Property, Don't Trespass"  Witches and owls live here I think.

So much has been destroyed for housing development.  Even some of the native grasses and prairie flowers cannot be found anymore in most of the area!!!  But I am a stubborn German and parked the car.  Again, never trespassing, I found the old overgrown trail we used to take as kids to get to and from different areas.  I walked remembering old haunts and there were still a few patches of authentic grasses here and there.  This old trail was kind of like the neutral zone between development and the older homes.  Yeah....I was a bit sad.
Eventually we made it my Grandparent's former home.  When they were alive so many years ago, they held the biggest and largest garden a person has ever seen!!!  Oh the vegetables and fruits!!!  But I remember my Grandparents always complained about the Rhubarb that decided to grow in their garden.  They tried to remove it and mowed it down. But it was stubborn and always came back.  Grandpa had even tried to dig it up.  Eventually they let it grow and incorporated it into their garden.  No more fighting.  The Rhubarb would grow into beautiful leafy plants.  When the stalks were red, they were chopped down and made into strawberry/rhubarb pie. It is still one of my favorite pies out to blueberry and pumpkin pie:) And so it would be, every year the rhubarb would come back like clockwork.
Dead trees between the development and old path.  With their water supply cut off, they are now a grim reminder of the past.
They may be gone, but I will always honor their memory and visit when I get the chance.  Grandpa was a groundskeeper and master gardener.  I do not exaggerate when I say their very large backyard was a masterpiece of work and art. They even had an Alaskan totem pole at the entrance to a wooden gate that had grape vine growing over it.  Grandpa even lined a stone path with ferny plants between the walk to give it a woodsy feel.  He was the first to go and so Grandma for many years maintained the area with help from my Uncle and Dad.  We also came out to help.  But the garden area would disappear.  However most of the plants and hanging flowers would still be kept up.  Grandma would still have her Geraniums and other plants brought down into the basement to be wintered until it was safe to put them back outside again.  The one constant in the universe that never changed was that patch of rhubarb.  She would still go out and collect it.  She'd even laugh about how that darn patch would keep coming back. 
The backyard today.  It was more than this at one point.  Grandpa took the yard and split it into two spaces creating a landscape worthy of a magazine cover.
And then Grandma would leave us.  What would happen to her home?  Would the owner do something drastic to the beautiful backyard that went on forever?  Well here is my report.  The owner has cut down everything and left it flat. It's not too drastic but the yard could use a little magic.  The old wooden fence and totem pole are obviously no longer there.  Some of the old growth is present and some of it has been chopped down.  The land area is still the same but suburbia is now knocking on their backyard lines.  It's rather disturbing.  And that stubborn patch of Rhubarb?
Well, it's still growing! My faith restored.  Of course the entire backyard has been mowed down and there is nothing there.  It looks like they tried to get rid of the Rhubarb as well....but the Rhubarb wasn't having any of that:)  Maybe she'll find the time and make some of that great strawberry rhubarb pie like my grandparents did.  But most of all, I think the rhubarb represents hope here....hope that some things will remain true even though the world is changing around us.
And so we walked that grassy path back to our car........


  1. It's terrible the state in which we live. No more forests.

  2. Sometimes I think it is best not to look back. It is sad to see what has become of your grandparents property and home. I am always sad to see any loss of habitat, especially the wetlands. When will we learn, when it is way too late?

  3. What a moving post Chris and how sad to see how the area has changed. Its awful to see how housing development is changing this area too :( What an awful shame about the pheasants too (I think of you whenever I see one over here!). I am so glad you were able to find a few patches of trees remaining and follow a few overgrown trails.

    So sorry to hear how your grandparents' backyard has changed but how wonderful that the patch of rhubarb survives and refuses to be got rid of. A really great post and thanks so much for sharing.

  4. To przykre jak wspomnienia są milsze od rzeczywistości, która rozczarowuje. Dobrze, ze został chociaż rabarbar. Pozdrawiam.
    It's a shame as the memories are sweeter than the reality, which is disappointing. Well, that was even rhubarb. Yours.

  5. Long live the rhubarb and wonderful memories!

  6. I think I know how you felt to see your grandparents’ property, Chris. Fortunately my grandparents house still stands as it used to be and my cousin’s family live there. However, the surroundings have drastically changed to developing housing area. The places I could be wild as a child climbing a tree, chasing insects or being chased by hens... are completely gone.

    The place I live now is a residential area made by demolishing a part of mountain. Many species must have lost their habitat. So I think I can’t complain when crows rip off garbage and litter the streets. To be frank, I don’t deny all the development, but random development is absolutely no-no.


  7. I think this is something that is happening around the world. So much of my childhood was shaped by the time and outdoor places I was free to roam. The only thing we can do is pass on that freedom and passion to our children so they will grow up to continue to value and fight for those untouched wild spaces :) Long live the rhubarb!

  8. It's so hard to go back to a place you once loved! Hooray for the rhubarb, though. :))

  9. i'm glad it was still there. rhubarb was always part of our wisconsin summers, too.

  10. Good old stubborn rhubarb endures. :)

  11. WTG, rhubarb! I absolutely empathize with you this moment. Just this morning a good friend and client (and plant supplier) emailed to me a letter saying that they were being asked by the city government to evict one of the few remaining green patches in this urban jungle to be replaced by a commercial establishment. Not all change is good.

  12. It's not easy to "go back home" and see the changes others have made to our memories. Yet it's really sad to think that a lovely natural area full of wildlife has been covered in cement. Long live the rhubarb!

  13. I love rhubarb pie! That is one of the things I miss from my old home.
    Change is inevitable in all of our lives, much of it we don't like.
    I enjoyed this post very much. I am visiting you from Jill's site.
    I am your newest follower.

    1. Hi Beth! Thanks for stopping by. I hope you enjoy what you see that follows. I try and do my best:) Rhubarb is one of my favorites when boiled and served warm with a little bit of sugar. That's how I used to eat it...or I would refrigerate it for a cool sweet treat:)

  14. When I read your post I think of my grandparents house and garden. We always got rhubarb there, cold with sugar.
    I don't go back and look at their old property, now there are 3 or 4 houses there.
    Wish you a great summer.

  15. Hello my friend Kreesh, this post is so touching, and i can relate with you very well. I am doing the visits and reminiscing as you are doing, and it really pains us when the landscape we grew up in changed that much, moreso if it is owned by another. We are a very clannish people so we normally buy the old property if we can so we preserve at least the land ownership. Our grandparents have a piece of land adjacent to our piece of land, but now owned by a rich man, he purchased it from my father's brother at a very low price and now the new owner is selling it at a price we cannot imagine. How i wish i have money to get it back, develop it to a sanctuary, fruit trees and whatever. But i don't have the means, so i am as disgusted as you are now!

  16. Hi Chris, Isn't it disheartening to see houses and sub-divisions taking over EVERYWHERE??? Every time they build a house up here, I worry about the sweet little birds and other critters who will love their homes when they clear the land.. It's so sad....

    Glad you did find that stubborn patch of Rhubarb though... I love rhubarb --and my Mom used to make the most delicious rhubarb pies.... YUM...


  17. We can see how nature got hold of you through this post.
    Rhubarb is a souvenir for me too at my parents place but I was not fond of it only when mixed with strawberries...otherwise it makes me grin :-)

  18. Thanks for sharing your experience and about your family story in connection with rhubarb. Now I find the plant really interesting. Even went to Wikipedia to read a bit more on this plant ;-)

  19. dear chris, how wonderful that you were able to end this familiar depressing story with a symbol of hope! cheers, cat

  20. Going back is hard. Everything moves on in our absence and we are stuck in our memories. Nostalgic and touching post.

  21. I don't remember what I tried to comment on this post when I originally saw it...I'm sure it was something quite pithy. I remember eating rhubarb from a friend's garden in France when I was nine years old. I love sour things.


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