By Bruce Stambaugh
Everyone needs a sanctuary. For my wife and me, our back porch is our quick retreat from life’s demands. A few short steps and we are in a special place. Over the years our back porch has given us many marvelous memories.
We recognize that we are fortunate to live where we do. Our home, built three decades ago off an Amish farm, is situated between Benton, Berlin and Mt. Hope, all in Holmes County, Ohio. Our back porch provides panoramic, inspiring scenes.
The open-air porch was added to our modest home several years ago. We wanted a quiet place to relax during Ohio’s warmer climes. When the weather does cooperate, we especially enjoy lunches together there. It helps to have a wife who is a great cook. I’m no chauvinist, but I’m no chef either. Neva rules the kitchen and I reap the rewards and help clean up.
Somehow the food tastes even better on the porch. One recent lunch featured her homemade butternut squash soup, sprinkled lightly with toasted bread crumbs. A fresh spinach salad with crasins and vinaigrette nicely complemented the soup.
A simple dessert of sweet cherries was washed down with fresh sweet peppermint tea, spiked with basil, giving the tea a sweet-tart taste. The mint was picked just minutes before being doused in boiling water. Other than the tea, no seconds were needed. A single course of each was plenty.
The house serves as a buffer between our busy highway and the backyard, minimizing the traffic noise. We love the quiet.
Well, perhaps quiet isn’t the proper word. Abundant backyard activity breaks any hint of silence. While we dined, we heard the undulating hum of a mower and the rattle of horse harnesses as our Amish neighbor completed his second cutting of hay before taking his own lunch break.
In the meantime, the birds and wildlife kept us entertained as they also dined. With the porch open on the sides, it’s not unusual for birds to zip over our heads to the feeders. That is especially true for the acrobatic hummingbirds. Their feeder hangs from the edge of the porch near the kitchen window. It is fun to watch the territorial hummers chatter and chase each other away from their own version of lunch. They wouldn’t have to do that. There are several places to perch.
If we stay immobile, even the woodpeckers light upon the peanut butter suet feeder that dangles next to a hanging basket of flowers. The little downys, however, are the only ones that aren’t spooked off by our presence. Still, they nervously but needlessly chip and jerk their heads warily as they jab at the rich mixture, making sure we keep our distance.
A green frog, one of six that inhabit our little garden pond, waits patiently for lunch to fly by. The green frogs that patrol our little garden pond adjacent to the porch patiently wait in the sun for their own lunch to fly by. When I hear a plop, I know they are as satisfied as we are.
Beyond the pond, monarch, swallowtail and red admiral butterflies partake in their own flowery buffet on the patch of ever-changing wildflowers. Along with volunteer sunflowers, the coneflowers, Black-eyed Susan’s, daisies, gaillardia and bachelor buttons paint a colorful palette in the shade of the canopy of pines and giant sugar maple.
When human guests arrive, their smiles reveal their appreciation for our sanctuary. Added together these pure and pleasurable ingredients always make for enjoyable and hardy gatherings. I’m more than happy to share the recipe.
© Bruce Stambaugh 2012