Growing up, my family lived on five acres. My father grew up in Iowa, so he was very keen on gardens. We had a huge (for us) vegetable garden, with corn, squash, tomatoes, and various beans. My sister and I would spend entire Saturday afternoons shelling crowder peas…I still can’t look at a pea pod without a bit of a shudder.
When my husband and I had our first house in South Carolina, we thought it would be fun to plant a garden of our own. The kids were younger then, about four and seven, and we let them pick one thing each to sow, with the understanding they would be responsible for weeding and taking care of the plants.
My son planted carrots. My daughter planted blueberries. I planted lettuce and tomatoes and my husband planted cantaloupe.
The Summer of the Garden is one that will stick in my memory. We learned so much and had a lot of fun, and I discovered the children were hiding something from us…something they would not admit until they were much older.
The experts aren’t kidding when they say to clear the rocks from where you plant the carrots. We did not get all the rocks dug out, and my son’s carrots grew twisted and gnarled. However, they were the most flavorful carrots I’d ever tasted…simply bursting with crunchy carrot goodness. I discovered what the color orange tastes like. The cantaloupes grew on ground vines. We had a chicken wire fence around the garden and the vines eventually crept out through the fence and escaped into the front yard. Again, juicy, sweet, flavorful fruit, much better than the melons you buy at the grocery store.
I would come home from work and carefully tiptoe my way through the dirt in my high heels and pick a few green tomatoes to fry up with dinner. I didn’t have to buy any salad fixings the entire summer…it was just pluck, rinse well, and toss together. No pesticides, just the satisfaction that we had been able to coax another living thing to fruition.
Sadly, my husband and I didn’t see a single blueberry the entire summer and we thought the birds were eating them. We even considered pulling the the plants up to try something else, but the children protested. Vociferously. It wasn’t until they were much older that they admitted to coming home from school and hopping the garden fence with their friends and having a blueberry feast before they started their homework.
The children are grown now. My husband is disabled and it is difficult for him to get around. Still, the siren song of growing things, the nature of renewal, has beckoned us again.
It’s another small garden, tomatoes, lettuce, carrots, cantaloupe, blackberries, and raspberries this time. The corn will have to wait until the current crop is done, since it takes up so much room. But stepping away from the air conditioning and the TV and the internet and grubbing in the dirt, pulling up roots, mixing in the Black Kow manure and garden soil, tenderly placing the seedlings or carefully watering in the seeds and hoping you’ve done everything right to see sprouts in seven to ten days…it’s like magic. With the wonder of modern agriculture I don’t HAVE to grow these things to sustain my family. But it’s humbling to tap into a small part of the miracle that is Mother Nature, and gives us a much better appreciation for the farmers who do this for a living. We’re just having fun with it…they’re feeding the world.