Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


If I told you I had a new damson scarf, would you know what color it is?

How about if I told you that at my farm, come September, we’re in damson heaven?

Here’s a clue …


(DAM-zuhn, -suhn)

1. A variety of small plum or its fruit. (Prunus domestica subsp. insititia, or sometimes Prunus insititia)
2. A dark purple color.

Turns out, the plum I love so much is also a color—the same deep purple as the signature skin of the little damson plum. Here at my farm, I have an abundance of these tasty little purple beauties. They’re sometimes called Italian prune-plums, and each little plum is a egg-shaped delicacy, with smooth, purple skin that pops in half, exposing a golden, sweet flesh that separates easily from the pit, lending itself to effortless eating, canning, and drying. They’re an ideal fruit tree for regions with fickle spring weather, and grow well in Zones 4-9. They do ripen late, from September to October, but a slight frost only sweetens them.


Plums are widely cultivated throughout the U.S., since there are varieties suitable for growing in every state. Some varieties have been developed from the earlier wild forms, some have been bred for maximum fruit production, others have been bred for larger and more abundant blossoms, and some for decoration alone. But the variety I inherited when I bought my farm is on the wild side. They’re prolific producers and reproduce easily. Pests don’t bother them at all. The deer eat the fallen fruit, but really nothing seems to deter the trees’ determination to multiply. However, if a shoot sprouts where I don’t want it, it’s no problem simply to weed it out. I suspect some of my trees, with big thick trunks, are well over 100 years old.

And since they grow fast, I’ve begun to transplant some of the shoots that sprout up around the older trees along my fence lines. In some cases, they just show up right where I want them and start growing. All I need to do then is prune the lower branches and keep the saplings woven in and out of my existing wire fences. So, by the time my fenceposts start to rot from age, I’ll have a permanent, care-free, deer-deterrent barrier that provides an abundance of food.


“The mind I love must have wild places, a tangled orchard where dark damsons drop in the heavy grass, an overgrown little wood, the chance of a snake or two, a pool that nobody’s fathomed the depth of, and paths threaded with flowers planted by the mind.”
– The Journal of Katherine Mansfield, 1927

Soon, we’ll be up to our elbows in luscious, ripe, damson plums!


… Time for plum jam,

and plum coffee cake!

To purchase damson plum saplings, try Nature Hills Nursery.

  1. What a wonderful essay on your dear Damson plums MaryJane ! I ,unlike most Americans, love prunes,( now renamed ” dried plums” but the food industry). In Europe they are used for fillings in endless recipes, must be my Hungarian/Gypsy roots talking to me. I do have an ornamental flowering Plum at my farmette and it is truly a joy in spring when it blooms pink on burgundy foliage looking like the ancient Chinese scroll paintings of such shrubs. There is an antique Chinese ginger jar made into a lamp in my living room with such branches painted on it. But, alas, my little tree has no fruit.
    So ,MJ, give us some more plum and prune recipes, please?

  2. I have never seen these and sound so tasty. But I especially love that you can use it as a barrier while also producing fruit.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Today, I ran across the word “stellenbosch” (ste-len-bosh). Of course, I’m a sucker for anything that sounds like Stella, my adorable 7-year-old grandgirl, so this word nearly jumped off the page at me:

“What happened?” Todd whispered to Ariel. “I thought Becca was going to lead the class.”

“I’m not sure,” Ariel said, “but I’m guessing that after she blew that lab last week, Muldrow stellenbosched her.”

Turns out, stellenbosch is a toponym, a word derived from the name of a place—think bohemian (after Bohemia), Chihuahua (after Chihuahua, Mexico), or ottoman (after the Ottoman Empire).


Herter Brothers Ottoman, High Museum of Art, by Wmpearl via Wikimedia Commons

At one time, a person’s surname was part of his identity … more than just a family name, it might tell where he lived, what he did for a livelihood, or even describe a physical or personality trait. Think Miss London or Mr. Fisherman or Miss Smiley.

Apparently, they didn’t know about toponyms in Scandinavia, where until fairly modern times (the late 1800s), surnames were almost always patronyms (your father’s first name plus a suffix meaning son or daughter) like Anderson (son of Anders) or Andersdotter (daughter of Anders). Papa Anders could have been an Anders Johnson or Anders Anderson, didn’t matter—the name that was passed on was always his first name. But the Scandinavians were more modern than you might think: When a woman married, she didn’t adopt her husband’s name, since she could never be called someone’s son. She instead kept her birth name.

But I digress. Back to our original toponym: stellenbosch. And what did it mean that Becca was stellenbosched?

Our word comes from Stellenbosch, South Africa, near Cape Town. During the Second Boer War of 1899-1902 (between the British Empire and the Dutch settlers of South Africa), Stellenbosch was a British military base.


1904 World’s Fair Boer War Pprogram, Frank Mills via Wikimedia Commons

Officers who hadn’t done well on the battlefield were often sent to Stellenbosch to do menial tasks, like looking after the war horses stabled there. The officers usually kept their rank, but the reassignment to Stellenbosch was considered a demotion, and the term came to mean reassigning someone to a position of minimal responsibility where they would do no harm.

Hmmmm, think I’ll stellenbosch my farmhand, Johnny Johnson, who pulled out all the baby lettuces when weeding … to that nice big patch of thistles at the top of the garden.

  1. Wow, I never knew this place name was a “verb/adverb”. I visited Stellenbosch many years back, while it was still a rather rural area outside of Capetown. I had my first scones there served by a veddy “British” South African woman who ran a cafe. The English left over from colonial times are often more British than the British themselves, and living in a world from a bygone day.
    I was on my way to Kango Caves, the largest underground caves in the world and still mostly undiscovered.
    Thanks MaryJane for once again teaching us something new in the world of words.

    • MaryJane says:

      What haven’t you done? Where haven’t you been? It might be easier to keep track of you THAT way:) It seems like you’ve lived several lives already!

      • Well, I haven’t been to Australia and those countries nearby.But have travelled to all the continents, even almost antarctica ( well 800 miles away at Tiera Del Fuego) all except ” down under”. Yep, no need in my late life to wish I had to sowed my wild oats, have done that for sure ! Still have my ” bucket list” though.

  2. Oh and on the subject of Stella, I’m sure you are aware of the dearest children’s book ” Stella Luna” by Janell Cannon, about an orphaned fruit bat ( but with a happy ending). Surely one of the best children’s tales I have ever read on many levels. The illustrations are truly gorgeous. Oh and a side note, I once had a pet fruit bat !

    • MaryJane says:

      We have TWO copies of Stella Luna, one for here and one at Stella’s house. Adorable book.

      • I have 3 copies, one hardback, one softback and one to give away as a gift!
        My fruit bat by the way was named Ogilve ( sp?) and he was so cute, just nibbled on fruit I gave him and licked you back, they have virtually no teeth, they just lick . flying foxes is the perfect name for them.

  3. Karlyne says:

    Stellenbosch! I can’t wait to use it on the grandkidlets!

  4. Terry Steinmetz says:

    I love the meanings of names. My maiden name was Kerbyson (son of Kerby) & my married name is
    Steinmetz, which means, stone mason, of which my hubby’s great-grandfather was actually a stone mason who built brick/stone churches.

    • MaryJane says:

      How cool is that? Our neighbors who are the Iversons, Ken and Brenda Iverson, told us that when their ancestors checked in at Ellis Island, Iver’s son, not able to speak English yet, told them he was Iver’s son and they wrote down Iverson.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

all things …

If I said to you,

“I happen to have an eponymous magazine …


produced at my eponymous farm …


where I also dream up designs for my eponymous bedding line …



to sell in my eponymous store …”


Would you know what I’m talking about?

eponymous [uhponuh-muhs]

something named after its central character or creator: the Beatles’ eponymous debut album



  1. Winnie Nielsen says:

    New word for me! I would have had no idea what you meant. Great question for a Monday!

    MaryJane, just a note that I am westward bound for Glacier National Park with some family stops along the way. Then….it is on to SandPoint, Idaho to visit with my friend Kellie (accordion to Kellie). Yes!! I will be on Idaho soil for 2 days. Whoop!! Then on to see the Oregon coast and Portland. Wish there was time again to visit the store in Coeur d’Alene but just not possible with other adventures. I will be waving to you from SandPoint and blowing a kiss!!!

  2. great word and not used often enough! yep ,you are soooo eponymous MaryJane!

  3. Karlyne says:

    Winnie, you just travel and have too much fun for one person!

    “Eponymous” always links in my mind with “comprehensive”, too. As in MaryJane has a comprehensive, eponymous way of life.

  4. Winnie Nielsen says:

    New word to me. I would have never guessed this one. Great Monday morning brain teaser
    MaryJane, I am enroute to Glacier National Park via Chicago. Then on to Sandpoint Idaho to visit Kellie before heading for Portland. When I get to Idaho soil, in wave and blow you a Farmgirl kiss!!

  5. Eileen says:

    I want to visit your farm store sometime. Could you list the address so I can Google map the trip? I am in Sequim, WA on the Olympic Peninsula. Maybe you could suggest some points of interest along the way?

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *