By Hippo (a hippopotamus) and Al (a bird)

Wow! Al and I were invited for tea with a family in our neighborhood – Michael, Michelle, and Miles. Our whole day was nicer because of it. We learned that tea doesn’t just mean tea. It means friendliness, getting-to-know-you, or (a word we just learned) gemütlichkeit. Gemütlichkeit is a German-language word used to convey the idea of a state or feeling of warmth, friendliness, and good cheer; when everyone belongs and everything feels just right.

It all started with a garden that Al and I have walked past hundreds of times. We call it the branch garden because they use branches for fencing, trellises and supports. In the fall, it’s a wondrous sight with lush green leaves and yellow/orange squash covering the trellises; and tomatoes, onions, carrots, beets, cucumbers, kale and much more overflowing everywhere.

One day on our walk, Al and I met Michael and Michelle who live in the house with the garden. Miles was just a babe-in-arms at the time. One thing led to another and a few days ago, we got up the courage to ask if we could write an article about their garden. Michael and Michelle invited us to stop by for tea and a chat.

Michael and Miles (now running all over the place, helping dig weeds and pick up rocks) showed us around the gardens, compost pile, and yard. They have added some raised beds made of logs that still have the bark on them, another branch trellis in the back with onions nestled underneath, and pots waiting for tomatoes. Pea shoots and lettuce are up along with tiny sprouts of carrots, kale, beets, and kohlrabi. Michelle grows chamomile for tea.

“Al, I said, “Did you notice that Miles kept pointing at me saying, ‘ippo! ippo! ippo’?”

“I did,” said Al. “He took a shine to you, Hippo.”

When we came inside, Michelle made hot tea for us. Around the table, we chatted about our families, food and the everyday affairs of life. Growing and making good, healthy food is a lot of work, we all agreed, but it’s also satisfying, and especially important for the small humans like Miles who are still growing. “And,” said Michael, “there’s nothing better than a garden tomato or cuc.”

One of Michael’s ideas is to have a garden partner – “I’ll help you in your garden and you help me in mine.”

“A great idea,” said Al. “As Winnie the Pooh said in his book: ‘It’s so much more friendly with two.'”

Judging from the books we’ve read, humans used to do a lot more of this kind of thing – gathering and preparing food together while children played nearby, quilting with friends, or even raising a barn – with a community feast afterwards.

“It seems a jolly way to get things done,” said Al. “And maybe the humans wouldn’t be so stressed if they did more of that.

Al and I were sent on our way with a jar of pickled kohlrabi from last year’s harvest. We shared it for our dinner as we chatted about all the fun we had at the branch garden.

“What was that word again, Hippo?”


Al sighed. “A great word.”