Monarch butterflies fluttered about my grandmother’s front yard. From the open porch window, the smell of freshly baked banana bread filled the air drying the clean clothes hung across a line in the yard. In the distance, my brother Jasper and sister Mary were playing hide and seek while my grandfather busily bent aluminum sheeting around the trunks of apple trees to keep squirrels from eating the young fruit. As for my grandmother, she tirelessly worked pulling weeds from the petunia beds while I held her weed bucket.
As we worked, a monarch rested upon her straw sun hat and gently raised and lowered its wings while it perched. My grandmother saw me staring at her hat and slowly removed it from her head while the butterfly clung tightly, never leaving the hat. While we watched the tiny creature, I saw my grandmother take pause. She then sat back upon the ground and said, “All bugs serve a purpose, you know.” Following her lead, I sat upon the ground and she began to tell a tale of one particular bug long, long ago in her favorite fabled town.
Mr. Thomas Teakwood was known for his green thumb in the town of Donbridge and for his smart suits which he wore with pride for any occasion. He was a hard worker who spent endless hours cultivating plants and as a result, he had amazing, meticulous gardens of splendor which many came from near and far to view during the warm weather months.
During the winter months, he would grow seed plants for all the vegetable gardens of the town using a greenhouse which he had built over the course of two years. There he cultivated tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, beans and pepper plants by the thousands. Once the plants were grown, he would load them upon his horse-drawn buckboard wagon and deliver them to all of the farmers of Donbridge, who in turn would pay him in crops at the end of the harvest season.
One particular year, a farmer by the name of Timothy Taylor decided that he would buy his plants from a neighboring farmer. Mr. Teakwood, not of an angering type, bid Mr. Taylor luck in his planting and simply took his plants to the next farm. As the season moved on, Mr. Taylor began to notice that his newly purchased plants were being eaten, but by what, he did not know. Panicked he would lose his crops, he gathered a few plants and took them to his neighbor.
Mr. Miller, who was trimming his pear trees, greeted Mr. Taylor. Seeing the plants in his hand, Mr. Miller examined them and was confused by the bite marks upon the leaves of the plants. He had never seen such destruction and had no answers for Mr. Taylor. Worried, Mr. Taylor left and in the process, he accidently dropped one of the plants in Mr. Miller’s orchard. Mr. Taylor then traveled to another farm of Donbridge and then another. Each time, no farmer had an answer, but unknown to Mr. Taylor, he continued to drop leaves all over Donbridge.
As he was heading back to his home, he saw Mr. Teakwood sitting on the porch of Blum’s Bakery. Mr. Taylor, feeling ashamed that he did not use Mr. Teakwood’s plants, decided to humble himself and ask Mr. Teakwood for help. Going to the porch, Mr. Taylor offered up the leaves of his plants to Mr. Teakwood, who peered upon the plants with interest. As he looked upon the leaves, he grimaced.
“You have aphids upon your plants, dear sir, and if you took these plants to other farms, they too will soon have them,” Mr. Teakwood said. Mr. Taylor looked worried and Mr. Teakwood saw his concern. “Worry not, my fine friend, I have a solution.”
Mr. Teakwood left the bakery and went to his house, returning with a massive trunk that was covered by black netting. Seconds later, he opened the trunk and a massive cloud of ladybugs filled the sky, flying all about the town. The swarm spread out over the valley, consuming all the aphids in Donbridge. Mr. Teakwood smiled and smirked. “Ladybugs love to eat aphids and you, my dear sir, have covered my expense of feeding my red and black-covered friends,” he said. Mr. Taylor smiled and from that day forward, aphids never infested Donbridge again.
As my grandmother finished her tale, a ladybug flew down and landed upon her hand. We both watched as the bug scurried about her sleeve as the sun glossed the tiny red and black speckles of the bug’s back. My grandmother smiled and slowly moved her hand under the petunia plants, allowing the ladybug to climb about its leaves.
“At least now we know there will be no aphids,” she said, and with that she gathered up her gardening gear and motioned me inside her house for a slice of banana bread.
Banana Nut Bread
1/2 cup of olive oil
3/4 cups of packed brown sugar
2 1/3 cups smashed ripe bananas
2 cups of flour
1 teaspoon of baking powder
1/4 teaspoon of sea salt
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl combine sugar, eggs, olive oil and bananas. Fold in flour and other dry ingredients. Grease and flour 2 loaf pans. Pour batter evenly into each loaf pan. Place loaf pans in pre-heated oven and bake for 45 minutes. Check with a toothpick to make sure the batter is cooked through; if not, a few more minutes may be necessary. Top should be a golden brown when cooked. Allow to cool before cutting.