Columns » Bob Lancaster

All I can stands

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I don’t want to overdo it, but once or twice each spring, I deign to allow y’all horticulturally challenged types access, by way of a terse but vigorous little Q&A, to the vast ol’ moi stores of gardening expertise. Not to brag, but I’ve heard that Janet Carson eats her heart out over these things. I’m glad to do it. As they say, noblesse oblige is its own reward. So without further ado, your Qs, my As — Q. This old pollen is said to be the heaviest ever measured this year. I was wondering, is it good for anything at all? Why couldn’t I whisk-broom a couple tons up off my cars and sell it in these health-food stores that already charge more for a package of “bee pollen” than you’d have to pay for the same amount of gold dust or cocaine? Why hasn’t somebody thought of this? A. Type A Arkansas pollen is not something to fool around with. Snorting it can cause one’s head to swell in a weird and felonious way, like SpongeBob’s, Herman Munster’s, or Pat Robertson’s. The condition isn’t permanent but it sure is scary while it lasts. Merely licking the stuff off of flat surfaces such as patio furniture or the hoods of automobiles or the sacroiliacs of toads has been known to cause brain damage of the kind you see in the state legislature and in certain of the more phantasmagorical evangelical sects. Get one of the Say No to Pollen bumper stickers and live by it. Q. I’ve heard that the Quapaw Indians of this area grew their corn real tall by planting each stalk over a large fish netted in the Arkansas River. My question is, why didn’t they just eat the fish? A. Without the corn, pinhead, they wouldn’t have had hushpuppies to go with the fish, so what would the point have been? And what about the drink and dessert? Corn squeezings made just about everybody’s favorite frontier libation, but fish squeezings? Gad and egad! And corn pudding vs. fish pudding is a no-brainer, in my opinion. Q. I know earthworms are essential but my boy keeps digging up all of ours for fish bait. I’ve tried spanking, scolding, time out, sending to bed without supper, and other punishments, but none seems to work. Does this mean my turnips are doomed? A. How you discipline your earthworms is no concern of mine, but I can tell you from experience that scolding just don’t get the job done. They just won’t listen. Perhaps they can’t. And spanking one, especially if you do it with any enthusiasm, is almost guaranteed to create a big mess. Maybe you should focus your correctional efforts on the boy. Sorry to have to tell you but turnips grown in earthworm-depleted soil nearly always turn out looking like prunes, swimmers’ thumbs, or bulimic tubers. Q. I’m wanting to become a vintner, making authentic Arkansas wine out of authentic Arkansas materials — mushmelons, red haws, farkleberries, soybeans, and so forth. Do you have any tips? A. I made some sweetgum wine one time, and my assembled expert tasters unanimously agreed that it truly and exquisitely sucked. They spat it out and went home. One of them got an unlisted number. The wine made from the slime you get off of catfish also turned out unsuccessfully. My p.r. firm did a nice job of promoting it — “all natural ingredients… no artificial flavors or colors added” — but the government insisted that the label include a warning about the gag reflex thing. My recommendation is that rather than going to all the trouble and expense, and courting almost inevitable disappointment, you start a personal collection of better vintages of some of the popular local private labels, such as the Road Kill Family Winery that took over some of the old pickle-packing ruins up near Atkins. Q. The county agent recommended 13-13-13 fertilizer for my lawn. What do those numbers mean? A. I found out the hard way that those numbers have to do with a dice game called craps. If you roll 13 three times in a row, you win. Otherwise, you don’t. At least that’s how it was explained to me. I’d have your local constable check out that county agent if I were you. If a meaningful percentage of your life savings is still intact. Q. Are yams the same thing as sweet potatoes? Also, what’s the difference between Irish and Idaho and Lyonnaise? A. Yams and sweet potatoes are similar but one has long tough hairs growing out of it and the other doesn’t. Which is which doesn’t really matter, now, does it? When Popeye sang I yam what I yam, he meant no insult to sweet potatoes. Yams just fit the meter of the song better. In fact, the original words were, “I sweet potato what I sweet potato and that’s all that I sweet potato, I’m Popeye the sailor man.” Popeye’s creator, E.C. Segar, heard this several times before saying, “That’s all I can stands and I can’t stands no more.” That’s how it became yams. I have neither the space nor the patience for that second question of yours.

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