You Know You’re Small Town When the Flower Gardens Sport Irrigation Rows, or How Apple-Rhubarb Crisp Makes Everything Better

A few years back, I was picking up sandwiches for the Saturday crew at the vet clinic (a colic, a lameness exam, a backed-up dog, an IRAP procedure, and you can see where the morning disappeared). On my way back, I appreciated the flower garden at the Bridger Senior Center for two reasons: the obvious beauty of the garden itself as well as the chuckle it never failed to provide. You know a farmer did the landscape installation when the garden sports irrigation rows.

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Garden at the Bridger Senior Center

All the credit for this spot of beauty goes to the Reamys, Buck and Lily. Longtime Bridger residents, their gardening skills are legendary. Every year, they put up a garden that would be the envy of any locavore or food snob, and they’ve turned out vegetables that would make a vegan weep. What they don’t eat fresh they home-can or give to anyone who asks. And from the looks of how the Senior Center’s garden is doing, Buck might be on to something with the irrigation rows for flowers.

A couple of years ago, I was home during the autumn, and I got it into my head to make my dad an apple-rhubarb crisp. (Dad has a sweet tooth, doubly so when it’s crossed with something tart: rhubarb, gooseberries, you name it.) I headed up to the grocery store to see if any could be found, and while none was to be found, I did get a hot tip from Una Baxter that Lily Reamy might have some. We couldn’t get Lily on the phone, but Una sent me up to the Lutheran church as the Reamys were often up there taking care of things.

I found Buck tending the garden at the pastor’s house across from the Lutheran church. Not only did he load me up with some fresh rhubarb, some cabbage and carrots made its way into the truck as well. Dinner that night was a-ma-zing, and if you’re looking for a great rhubarb crisp recipe, I find that this one works every time.

Apple-Walnut-Rhubarb Crisp


  • .75 pounds Golden Delicious apples, peeled, cored, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (about 6 cups of diced apples)
  • 1.25 pound fresh rhubarb, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (about 4.5 cups)
  • 4.5 tablespoons sugar
  • 3 teaspoons all purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Crisp Topping

  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) cold, unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1.25 cup rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts

Preparing the Topping

  1. Mix first four topping ingredients in medium bowl.
  2. Rub in butter until mixture begins to clump together. (I do this in a food processor, but you can also do this with a fork. When the mixture looks like wet sand, it’s ready.)
  3. Mix in rolled oats and nuts.

Preparing the Filling

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  2. Lightly spray an 10x10x2 baking pan with non-stick cooking spray.
  3. Combine apples, rhubarb, sugar, flour and vanilla extract in large bowl; stir gently to coat.
  4. Transfer apple mixture to 8x8x2-inch glass baking dish.
  5. Sprinkle topping evenly over fruit.
  6. Bake about 50 minutes until fruit is tender when pierced with knife, and the filling is bubbling through the crisp. The topping itself should be crisp.
  7. Cool 20 minutes, and if you’re feeling truly decadent/making up for good behavior, add a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

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