My charlie’s an angel

Savannah Morning News

Dec. 10, 2017

She was Charlie Elizabeth, Charlie Chicken-Fingers and Chaz. She was Charles and Charpoo. She was a short, black dog with a Bruce Springsteen under bite, a weakness for cat food and a salve for the elderly. “She loves me,” my mother and her neighbors down the hall (folks who rarely talked, never looked anyone in the eye and sat mute) would say when we’d visit the assisted living facility. “She does,” I’d answer. Other visiting dogs had service-dog status but most of the residents preferred Charlie.

She had a memory like a hawk. Give her one sniff of barbecue down the block and she’d return to the same spot for a week. She knew where all the roofers worked, when their lunch ended and what they would be discarding – pizza, sandwich crusts and chicken bones, especially chicken bones.

She was a magnet for cats, whom she didn’t particularly like. But they loved her. She tolerated their attention, looking away and sitting stone still as they rubbed against her.

There must have been something yummy about the inside of her ears too. Frida, her adopted sister, could lick for days without expecting anything in return. Charlie never reciprocated and that was OK.

She loved lounging in the sun not unlike some Miami Beach tanning queen and loved even more being named after a free-spirited friend named Charlie who was moving out of town (we hate when friends move) the same week she stepped into my world.

The last day of her life we both sat in the backyard, me with a book, Charlie in a bed of straw in direct contact with the afternoon sun, her adoring cat fan club close by and a couple of chickens who stepped around and over her in their quest for bugs.

She was not a fan of leashes. So, toward the end, her hearing compromised, her recently blued eyes clouded over with cataracts, we relied on broad hand signals, a shrill whistle and loud clapping to signal a change in direction. It seemed to work for us. She knew where her bread was buttered. She did not wander, not intentionally. When she did a neighbor would either call me or point her to our porch, a favorite spot because of errant bits of dry cat food.

More than once I called her Patches, her predecessor, also black, also short, tolerant and forgiving, especially when she aged. With similar gray markings in their muzzles – both on the other side of 16 – they looked wise and understanding. Is there anything better than an old dog’s face? Friends who knew both of them also got confused. It reminded me – in a nice way – of how much my mother and her older brother Saul started to look alike as Saul’s hair receded and my mother’s thinned. Even Charlie’s beloved vet Steve Marlay confused her with Patches.

Maybe because I had to do something with my grief but as soon as we buried her and had a fine lunch of Italian shells stuffed with ricotta and spinach (“every good funeral has good food,” a friend said), I started to deep clean the house. I put on Nina Simone and wept and swept. I mopped, tucked away the remaining puppy pads and bottles of “pet odor eliminator,” picked up the second bowl of food and water and removed the crate she started to love in her later years. I dismantle the gate that had confined her to the back of the house.

It felt a little unseemly to be so quick about it but I didn’t know what else to do with myself. “It’s a beautiful day, isn’t it?” said the cheery postal carrier. “It is,” I answered. But what I really wanted to say was, “I just buried my dog.”

It’s only been a week, but already I think I hear her barking at the two golden retrievers who walk by every morning, scraping her nails on the wooden floors. I see her insisting on just a little more food, tolerating a little cuddling, checking Frida’s bowl to see if she left anything over. I’m still careful when I walk around the kitchen because she was always so underfoot hoping for scraps.

Blessedly she stopped listening to the news about a year ago. Smart girl. I could learn something from her.

In writing her obituary, I could say she was a Baptist and a homemaker. But she was neither. She was a keeper of secrets, a confidant, an adviser and a pal. And now she’s an angel, a Charlie angel.

 

 

 

 

Fuyu persimmon come to savannah

Savannah Morning News

Dec. 3, 2017

The first thing people do when they see Laura Potts-Wirht with her table of fuyu persimmons piled high at the Forsyth Farmers Market is pucker up their nose, shake their head, make a nasty sound and say, “Oh, no. I ate one once. It about killed me. I was close to calling the poison control center.  I’m not doing that again.”

Except for the visitors from California, where fuyus are popular and prevalent. They know the fuyu variety are crunchy and sweet. They know they’re exquisite.

Except to those who know.

But to the naysayers Potts-Wirht has some ‘splaining to do. Again. “You must have been eating wild persimmons (that weren’t ripe),” she’ll start. “The astringent type.” The ones she was selling (and grows) were sweet fuyu persimmon, a cross between a mango and a melon with a hint of pear and cinnamon, the color of a pumpkin and an indented leaf in the center. If they’re hard, you can eat them like an apple (skin and all). No seeds, no core. You can slice them into salads, sauté them, bake them, shred them into cabbage. If they’re soft, add them to a smoothie, make jam or salsa, fold them into a pie or make tea with the leaves. You can spread them on crackers or dehydrate them.

Here’s the good thing: they can be grown here. Now the bad: they’re nearing the end of their season. Their growing season is between October and Thanksgiving. But that’s what happens when you eat fruits – and vegetables – in season. They’re not always available when you have a hankering for them. Unless you freeze them, Laura says. But you have to have discipline to do that.

Not to worry. Laura and her husband Tom plan to have plenty more next year. They weren’t sure how Georgia would treat their “babies” – which need good, well-drained soil – but it’s looking good. With any luck fuyu persimmon could take the fourth slot in Georgia agriculture after sweet onions, blueberries and olives – none of which were grown here 100 years ago.

At least that’s what Laura and Tom are hoping.

With a degree in agriculture Tom comes from a family farm in California’s San Joaquin valley that goes back 120 years. He came to Savannah in 1991 to go into the business of rehabbing historic properties with a relative. But then he stayed. When he met and married Laura he started missing farming. That’s when they began their search for a farm where they could grow specialty citrus: minneolas, blood oranges and Valencia navels. To diversity they added persimmons. Now their (NUMBER) acre farm in Glennville has 1,500 persimmon trees.

And that’s where Laura, a woman with big plans and good taste, decided to surprise a few of her new Glennville garden club members. She invited them to a tea and a farm tour. But this wasn’t any ordinary tea. With produce- and catering-maven Diane Polk’s help the two set up a table in the middle of a field festooned with fine cutlery, China plates, a tea pot, tea cups and saucers and a slew of hors oeuvres of guacamole, crepes rolled with cucumbers and stuffed quail eggs. (She got the quail eggs from Jessica’s Chop Shop in downtown Glennville). Then they transported the women in a farm wagon. It was a scene from a movie.

Before she met Tom, Laura, who was raised in Missouri, had never been to California. She never expected the beauty she found when she visited.

“I thought it was all Hollywood and highways and plastic,” she said. “But the Sierra Nevada mountains are beautiful. Parts of the state looks like Missouri, hilly and wide open.”

With an undergraduate degree and a master’s in business administration Laura never gave agriculture a thought. For a while after college she worked in health and hospital administration. But then she took another reverse turn. She joined the Peace Corps and spent several years in Macedonia. When conditions there got dicey she was moved – three months before the end of her two-year commitment – to Bulgaria. When she finished her tour of duty she returned to her home in Missouri. But by then she had visited Savannah and had been thinking, “If I ever got the chance I’d move here, which I did.”

Her first job – for one year – in 2001 was as an office manager with Harry Barker, a high-end pet shop on Liberty Street.

But now it’s citrus – and persimmons, “which are classified as a berry. Did you know that? Did you know persimmons are the national fruit of Japan?”

 

 

 

 

 

Laura potts-wirht

 

The first thing people do when they see Laura Potts-Wirht with her table of fuyu persimmons piled high at the Forsyth Farmers Market is pucker up their nose, shake their head, make a nasty sound and say, “Oh, no. I ate one once. It about killed me. I was close to calling the poison control center.  I’m not doing that again.”

Except for the visitors from California, where fuyus are popular and prevalent. They know the fuyu variety are crunchy and sweet. They know they’re exquisite.

Except to those who know.

But to the naysayers Potts-Wirht has some ‘splaining to do. Again. “You must have been eating wild persimmons (that weren’t ripe),” she’ll start. “The astringent type.” The ones she was selling (and grows) were sweet fuyu persimmon, a cross between a mango and a melon with a hint of pear and cinnamon, the color of a pumpkin and an indented leaf in the center. If they’re hard, you can eat them like an apple (skin and all). No seeds, no core. You can slice them into salads, sauté them, bake them, shred them into cabbage. If they’re soft, add them to a smoothie, make jam or salsa, fold them into a pie or make tea with the leaves. You can spread them on crackers or dehydrate them.

Here’s the good thing: they can be grown here. Now the bad: they’re nearing the end of their season. Their growing season is between October and Thanksgiving. But that’s what happens when you eat fruits – and vegetables – in season. They’re not always available when you have a hankering for them. Unless you freeze them, Laura says. But you have to have discipline to do that.

Not to worry. Laura and her husband Tom plan to have plenty more next year. They weren’t sure how Georgia would treat their “babies” – which need good, well-drained soil – but it’s looking good. With any luck fuyu persimmon could take the fourth slot in Georgia agriculture after sweet onions, blueberries and olives – none of which were grown here 100 years ago.

At least that’s what Laura and Tom are hoping.

With a degree in agriculture Tom comes from a family farm in California’s San Joaquin valley that goes back 120 years. He came to Savannah in 1991 to go into the business of rehabbing historic properties with a relative. But then he stayed. When he met and married Laura he started missing farming. That’s when they began their search for a farm where they could grow specialty citrus: minneolas, blood oranges and Valencia navels. To diversity they added persimmons. Now their (NUMBER) acre farm in Glennville has 1,500 persimmon trees.

And that’s where Laura, a woman with big plans and good taste, decided to surprise a few of her new Glennville garden club members. She invited them to a tea and a farm tour. But this wasn’t any ordinary tea. With produce- and catering-maven Diane Polk’s help the two set up a table in the middle of a field festooned with fine cutlery, China plates, a tea pot, tea cups and saucers and a slew of hors oeuvres of guacamole, crepes rolled with cucumbers and stuffed quail eggs. (She got the quail eggs from Jessica’s Chop Shop in downtown Glennville). Then they transported the women in a farm wagon. It was a scene from a movie.

Before she met Tom, Laura, who was raised in Missouri, had never been to California. She never expected the beauty she found when she visited.

“I thought it was all Hollywood and highways and plastic,” she said. “But the Sierra Nevada mountains are beautiful. Parts of the state looks like Missouri, hilly and wide open.”

With an undergraduate degree and a master’s in business administration Laura never gave agriculture a thought. For a while after college she worked in health and hospital administration. But then she took another reverse turn. She joined the Peace Corps and spent several years in Macedonia. When conditions there got dicey she was moved – three months before the end of her two-year commitment – to Bulgaria. When she finished her tour of duty she returned to her home in Missouri. But by then she had visited Savannah and had been thinking, “If I ever got the chance I’d move here, which I did.”

Her first job – for one year – in 2001 was as an office manager with Harry Barker, a high-end pet shop on Liberty Street.

But now it’s citrus – and persimmons, “which are classified as a berry. Did you know that? Did you know persimmons are the national fruit of Japan?”