Friday, March 26, 2010

A Gardening Story

I gave another “how to” talk on veggie gardening last night at the church of one of my friends, but I wasn’t the only speaker for the evening. The guy who followed me is a widower whose mother-in-law just celebrated her 101st birthday. My talk was pretty much about the nuts-&-bolts of gardening here in Georgia, so his talk was a great choice to follow mine.

He told about his own garden and about why he gardens: he just loves it!

He plants a very large garden and gives most of what he grows away. His green beans are State half-runners; he plants an eighty-foot row and has them climb up wire fencing. He cans many, many quarts of those beans every year.

He plants sixty tomato plants each year (all Park’s Whopper), but has never canned a single tomato. What he and his family don’t eat fresh, he gives away. He doesn’t even eat cucumbers, but he grows them, and he gives those away, too.

He told a couple of stories about gardening, and one story was from his childhood. Apparently, his father had a big garden, and the sons did a lot of the work in it when they were big enough. One hot, sunny day, the boys were sent out with hoes to clear out the weeds. They were told that their father would come get them in about an hour and a half.

The boys took off their shirts to work, but it was still a hot day, and the work was hard. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky. After a while, a bird flew by and dropped a load down the back of one of the brothers. That brother dropped his hoe and said, “it’s raining. Time to get back to the house.”

That last bit made me chuckle, but there was more. It turns out that that particular brother has never planted a garden of his own in all his life.

It is interesting that people have such different reactions to childhood gardening. The one brother, the man giving the talk, developed a real love of gardening, and has kept on planting, tending, and harvesting his whole life. Another brother hated it, and never wanted to have anything to do with gardening ever again.

When I was growing up, my family didn’t have a garden. Sometimes when I talk with gardeners who remember working alongside parents or grandparents out in the garden, I feel a little twinge of envy. That history seems so wonderful, and I don’t have that. But after hearing the story, I’m not sure that the lack of childhood garden memories is such a loss.


  1. What a funny story! I grew up with a mother that gardened, and I have wonderful memories of us in the garden together, even though I was little!

  2. Awesome story. Don't you feel gardening attaches us to our ancestors? When I am gardening, and preserving food I feel so kindred to the woman who have come before. You are so right when you say a mess means something is going on, and this is a good thing. Peace

  3. Erin, So great that you have those memories! We didn't garden, but my mom and I sometimes would have a big sewing week--especially as I got into highschool. That was fun, too.

    Ruralrose--I agree, gardening does feel like a connection to women (and men) who have gardened in the past, and also to those who grow their own food in other parts of the world now. It also makes me value good food more highly.

    Many years ago, I taught myself how to tat. It turns out that tatting takes some patience, even though it isn't hard. When I go to flea-markets or estate sales and see pieces of tatted lace selling for $5, I am just amazed, because I have a clue what went into the production of that lace. Even a fairly uncomplicated piece represents many hours of a woman's life, and at the time it was made, that bit of lace was probably valued fairly highly. Only a woman with some leisure time available could make the lace---it wasn't available to everyone. It was a luxury item. Now, it's available to anyone with five bucks, which is most of us (here in the US, anyway).

    When I harvest a truly wonderful tomato, or hilarious black popcorn, or interesting greens out of my own yard, I get that same sense of connection to the past, but also a sense of wealth. I can afford to grow unusual produce. I don't have to use my whole garden for subsistence crops, and I feel very blessed.

  4. You are so right! I can't afford the latest greatest thing or dress like a million bucks, but watching people's eyes light up when they see or taste my garden goodies feels so great! And although I have the garden memories, I am now struggling to teach myself to knit and sew, lol! My mom is an expert with a sewing machine but did I pay attention back then? Nope...

  5. You said it better than I could. A tatter, eh? How wonderful! I get the same connection from my embroidery, just like Erin's knitting. The common thread could save humanity, it sure is saving us! Love your sweet heart, peace


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