No scone left unturned in the quest for a perfect garden |

No scone left unturned in the quest for a perfect garden

Afternoon tea in the garden here at Clear Creek Ranch is always memorable. We don’t send out engraved invitations and never use the good china, linens, silver or grandma’s crocheted tea cozies.

No time to quibble over the correct pronunciation of scone . . . does it rhyme with “on” or ‘own’? Your hands will be otherwise occupied . . . swatting flies.

Forget about fancy cakes, crumpets and tiny sandwiches with no crusts. Oolong? Pekoe? No, and there’s nothing darjeeling about the stuff we brew here, dearie. Don’t look for globs of clotted cream anywhere nearby, although our tea ceremony is far from dairy-free.

Our dairy products are collected with shovel and pitchfork. Putting one’s best foot forward is an excellent way to discover the location of Bossy’s latest surprise. (shoe and tell, anyone?)

So if you plan to drop by, Wellingtons and bib overalls are suggested. Dunking 80-pound, dung-filled burlap sacks in 55-gallon drums of warm water is not everyone’s (excuse the expression) cup of tea. But it is the only way to brew the perfect batch of manure tea.

Not exactly what the duchess of Bedford envisioned when she popularized elaborate afternoon teas. But the bedding plants in our ranch garden have a party thriving on regular servings of Lady Holstein’s “tea.”

The price of steeping need not be steep. Any chicken, cow, deer, duck, goat, horse, llama, pig, rabbit or sheep doo will do. Each animal brings its own subtly different set of NPK to the brew. (For you non-gardeners, NPK stands for nitrogen-phosphorus-potassium soil amendment nutritional values). I’ve never conclusively proven whose drippings and droppings are superior.

Manure tea need not be served hot, although I credit it with sustaining some of our perennials through the winter months. And while iced tea “sounds” like a treat for the garden tomatoes on a summer afternoon, my attempt to chill a jug in the refrigerator met with a chilly reception from the ranch’s other tomato variety, aka my wife.

I know of only one intentional human application of manure tea with any therapeutic value. Not long ago, the ranch had a visitor from the city. A know-it-all, rather fussy, totally urbanized and disturbed by barnyard odors. He became animated as he argued one side of my “scone rhymes with ‘on’ or ‘own’?” debate, and had no trouble downing half a dozen fresh black currant scones.

Suddenly he began to choke and gasp for air.

“I, I, I!” he gagged desperately.

“I scream scone?” I asked.

His face grew red; his eyes were wild in panic. We were 30 minutes from an emergency room.

Thinking quickly (for a change), I stepped out on the porch and retrieved the bucket of manure tea we used for the window box plants. One whiff from the bucket and Mr. Finicky’s gag response reversed itself, along with most of his stomach’s contents.

“We can package this tea,” I told my marginally besplashed wife. “Call it Heimlich Manure.”

“If only you’d maneuvered him outside first,” she said, handing me a mop.

“It’s true,” I thought, “Hell has no fury like a woman sconed.”

Mike Drummond’s column appears on Tuesday. You can write him in care of The Union, 464 Sutton Way, Grass Valley, 95945; or e-mail him at

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