It has been awfully hot here lately, and when I got a call from Mother Goose telling me how cool and pleasant it was in FairyLand I happily accepted her invitation to come for a short visit.
We had hardly settled down for a cup of tea in her garden before she confided, "Wanna, I hardly need to say how helpful it is to have you visit once in a while so I can vent." She looked around quickly, then leaned forward to say in a low voice, "I really can't talk to anyone around here because everyone in FairyLand somehow expects me always to listen to THEM. No one can believe that I ever need someone to listen to ME." She sighed, "I guess it's similar to any situation where one is in charge."
"Well," I said. "Here I am, so go for it. What's going on that you need to talk about?"
She absentmindedly stirred another spoonful of sugar into her already-sweetened tea. "Remember how unappreciated Candelaria felt back in the winter? Well, now I am hearing that my dependable helper, Arda Choak, may be having second thoughts about being in charge of all the cruciferous vegetables in FairyLand."
"Wow! I had no idea you had someone in charge of - what did you call them, cruciferous vegetables? What are they, by the way?"
"Their category encompasses Artichokes, Cabbage, Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, Cauliflower, Chard, Kale and Kohlrabi, and the Cresses, among others. Surveys show that we’re not eating enough cruciferous vegetables so that's why I encouraged Arda to plant more this year. And, in order to improve the general health and wellbeing we have almost doubled our capacity for these types of vegetables."
I nodded, "Oh, yes, I recall now. Seems like I read somewhere that collard greens and maybe turnips are cruciferous, too? What kind of name is that, anyway? Is it a religious connotation?"
Mother Goose went on to explain that it can mean carrying a cross, but in botany it means related to mustard. Apparently mustard seeds have a cross on them if you view them under a microscope.
So cruciferous vegetables are the cabbage, mustard and turnip family, including cresses and many relatives, a large family of plants with four-petaled flowers that some say resemble a cross shape.
She pointed out that they also come in a variety of colors beyond the familiar green and white. For instance, think of turnips and radishes; which reminded me of a wonderful rock garden not too far from our place in Cloudcroft NM which in winter has kale in all shades of purple, green, and white; really curly and pretty.
"So, Arda is in charge of all those vegetables?"
"Yes, she grows and then distributes them throughout FairyLand. And during the time from planting to harvest she waters, weeds and keeps out the insects. Along with a crew of helpers during harvest, of course."
Mother Goose sighed, "And here's where the problem comes in. As you may know, insects are part of FairyLand, too, but Arda is adamant that they are not going to be allowed in her gardens. So where do I draw the line? I mean, they have to eat, too. She is such a sweet person, normally almost placid, but when Arda gets her back up she can be as stubborn as Candelaria. The situation with Grandmother Matamosca is somewhat analagous. The flies had a point, too, in that they reside here, as well, but Matamosca sure keeps them away from the rest of us," she added, as an after thought.
She poured another cup of tea. "It all started with the cabbage worms. They presented a petition to me during the last Insect Court and were quite upset. I mean, if they don't eat cabbage, what do they eat? It's a dilemma. Unfortunately, or fortunately, as it turned out, we were interrupted by an invasion of gnats so my ruling on their petition had to wait until this month. But I can't put off making the decision any longer, as Court Day is approaching again.
"I fully understand Arda's argument; we can't afford to have our crops eaten or else our population would go hungry, or worse, yet, get more terrible diseases, like bladder cancer. But the caterpillars have a point, too," Mother Goose mused, "If they don't eat, they don't metamorphose."
She set her cup aside and rose from the bench. "Come along with me, and I'll talk to Arda and see what she might be willing to do to compromise. I want you to meet her, too. She is such a delightful little person - well, usually. "
I shook my head in wonder. "Wow! What you have to deal with! I would never have thought about that kind of problem!"
We passed Mother Goose's little kitchen garden and began climbing the hill which overlooks the FairyLand Gardens.
And then we saw a young woman seated on a large mossy stone gazing at the gardens, which spread in all directions below us, rimmed with the Western Woods on one side, neat orchards on another and berry and grape vines on the other. The Cruciferous Vegetables section was extremely tidy and well organized, with neat furrows in straight lines, and some varieties planted in circles, some in raised beds. Quite impressive.
"Arda!" Mother Goose called. "Have you got a minute?"
The young woman turned to greet us. "Hello, Mother Goose. Of course; I always have time for you."
I tried not to stare, as I wasn't really expecting her to be green.
"What good timing! I was just gathering some vegetables for your dinner, Mother Goose," the young woman said, showing us her basket.
"Very impressive! My word! You have outdone yourself, Arda," Mother Goose replied, seating herself on a mossy outcropping near her. "Meet Wanna, an old friend from far west Texas who has come for a visit."
"How do you do?" I said, reaching to shake her hand, and then sitting on my own mossy rock.
"Pleased to make your acquaintance," she replied shyly, shifting her basket under her arm as we shook hands. "And how are you?"
"Very well, thank you. Such a pleasure to meet you. Mother Goose was telling me about your very productive gardens."
Frankly, it was hard to believe this dainty young thing was in charge of all those cabbages and artichokes and other cruciferous vegetables. She hardly looked big enough to lift a spade. But then, appearances are deceptive, I reminded myself. Think of ants and how they can carry such giant loads.
"Yes, we have a bumper crop, except ...." and she turned to look once again at the cabbages.
Mother Goose sighed. "Yes, Arda. The caterpillars! I know you would not wish to harm them; however, ...."
For the first time, there was the suggestion of a frown on the young woman's face. "Caterpillars do great harm ..." she began, "And I do not want them in my gardens, so ...."
"Yes, my dear; I understand," Mother Goose interrupted. "I've been giving this a great deal of thought. Remember how, when some residents in FairyLand were reluctant to eat all your vegetables because of all the, er, after effects? You told everyone that certain spices have been reported to counteract the production of intestinal gas, for instance, cumin, caraway and turmeric." She turned to me, "Arda made it easy for them; she now sells these and other such spices in little packets at very nominal prices when she distributes their vegetables."
"Oh yes," Arda said. "And yoghurt is good for that problem, too. I made an arrangement with the Dairy Elves to provide us with plenty of yoghurt when my crops come in season, and we are working on a cookbook."
"So that goes to show you that if you can manage the problem of intestinal gas, you ought to be able to solve anything, right?" Mother Goose said, hopefully.
"Well ...." Arda was still frowning.
I thought about the difficulty they were facing, and then recalled how my mother had always planted marigolds around the edges of her tomato plants. I mentioned that, adding, "And she always said sage was good to plant with cabbages. It seems the garden pests love them more than they like the vegetables. Do you think something like that might help?"
"That's a good idea! Perhaps we could plant a barrier of marigolds and sage plants around all the gardens," Arda mused. "That would probably keep many of the pests out."
"And also provide one small plot strictly for the caterpillars!" Mother Goose hurried to add, clapping her hands together. "Since you've had such bumper crops, one little extra plot shouldn't make that much difference, right?"
"Of course, Mother Goose, if the caterpillars will abide by the boundaries. Frankly, I am sick and tired of plucking those awful things off my cabbages."
"And they weren't too happy about being tossed away, either," Mother Goose whispered in an aside as Arda leaned to place a handful of cresses in the basket.
"Yes," Arda said, as she handed Mother Goose the basket of vegetables, "I don't know why I hadn't thought of that before."
"See, you already use nets to keep the birds off the trees in the orchard," Mother Goose said, pointing to some nets hanging from a small shed behind Arda. "The birds aren't harmed because they can still peck at enough fruit to supplement their diet, while at the same time keeping the bulk of the crops protected. And this idea of the marigold and sage borders and the extra little plot for the caterpillars is another simple solution that will hopefully work amicably for both parties.
"Yes, that's what my decision will be when they present their petition at the next Court. In the meantime, you figure out how wide to plant your barriers around all the main gardens."
"Thank you so much, Mother Goose. I really don't like conflict, and if you are sure the caterpillars will cooperate and stay away from the main gardens, I will see to it that the plantings are done immediately."
"Done!" Mother Goose said. "I will make sure they cooperate. And get someone to help you plant that special plot for the caterpillars, too."
Arda paused. "Actually, there is someone who is always offering to help me in any way. Do you remember the fellow who was accidentally trapped in a book for so long? He has been hanging around here a lot, and swears that he would die for me, if I needed him to." And then she blushed, if you can imagine someone with green skin blushing.
And what happy news to learn that the guy with the pointy ears might actually be finding happiness with Arda after all his years of misery in that book! The last I had heard of him he had taken Fior's place in the FairyLand Nursery.
I could hardly wait to tell my husband, who had been none too happy at first when I begged him to help me get that poor pointy eared fellow from El Paso to FairyLand after I finally managed to get him out of that book.
When we left Arda, she was examining the giant vegetables she's been experimenting with that will probably win some kind of ribbon at the FairyLand Fair - and no doubt dreaming of her new garden helper!
Shortly after I put these pages online, my friend Jeannette Rost wrote, "And did you by any chance know that "Arda" was the elvish word for "world" or "Earth" in Tolkien's Lord of the Rings world? Seems very fitting for your Arda, who seems to me to be a kind of Mother Earth figure."
Actually, Arda is now sitting in the bottom of my etagere beside my 18 inch Green Man, so I consciously made a Green Woman when I created her. I read the Lord of the Rings trilogy many years ago, but I did not know, or did not remember, that Arda had a specific meaning; I was just playing with the word artichoke. It is fascinating, though, isn't it, that the word has that connotative meaning. Just goes to show you the power of archetypes in our subconscious.
You can see how I made Arda Choak here in the Dolls pages.