My day did not start off well. I hunted around for cucumbers (not that hard to do) and grapes leaves to rebuild myself. Like I said, cucumbers are easy to find nowadays, but so are grape leaves. I lied when I said they were somewhat harder to find. All you need to do is knock on a few doors. That's what I told myself this afternoon when my car's electricity failed and I stalled on Damon Road with eight pounds of Hadley cucumbers in my passenger seat. I was headed for a known source for grape leaves, but when my car died and I rolled to a stop in front of the doll house store, I decided to go directly home.
First I tried my neighbor, Ed, but he doesn't have grapes (I found out), and he'd seen an arbor recently, but he couldn't place it. Then I headed down the street to talk to the woman who gave me half a dozen fresh eggs and a bunch of composted chicken shit in exchange for a wheel barrow load of black dirt. I banged on her door and she answered, somewhat sweaty, hairy pits gleaming, but very friendly and very useful. I cannot remember her name! But she told me that I could find an arbor on Union Street behind the burned down house. I asked her for the address and she said, "It's the burned down house, you can't miss it." She said that the neighbors watch the lot and that, if they saw me poking around, I should tell them a friend of a friend told me I could find grape leaves here. Nobody saw me, but I saw the boarded up windows and the charred porch. I also found a treasure trove of grape leaves.
So there is something to be said about grape vines and neighbors and gossip. If you have ever seen a grape vine growing, you already know something. There is a reason why they say "I heard it through the grape vine." Grape vines grow along fences, and once they are established they grow vigorously, so that the stock of the vine might be located in the backyard of, say, 15 Vine Street, while the tips of the farthest reaching vines may be located along the fence in the backyards of 13 and 17 Vine. You get the picture: the vines travel. They travel and they also give a chain-link fence the illusion of privacy by covering it in a welter of dark green leaves. What once you could see through as clearly as a piece of Waterford crystal is now totally opaque! You couldn't see a school bus if one was parked on the other side of a healthy arbor. You couldn't see it, but you could certainly hear its engine; and if anybody were to say something about you or another person, well, you wouldn't be able to see them either, but chances are, on a still day, you could probably hear every gossipy word.
P.S. the top photo shows all the fresh ingredients one needs to make great half sour pickles. It shows dill, fresh coriander, shallots, garlic, hot peppers, cukes and grape leaves (grape leaves act as a firming agent). The only missing ingredients are bay leaves, black peppercorns, water and, of course, salt.