Saturday, October 1, 2011

I Eat, Therefore I Garden!

“I think, therefore I am,” said Descartes.  “I eat, therefore I garden,” says Debbie.

Gardening gives us a relationship with our food. It’s soul-satisfying to watch it grow and then harvest it, wash it, prepare it, and eat it—sometimes within minutes. This is “the local food movement,” but in the past, it was just life as usual.

On our Idaho dry farm, a loose barbed wire fence kept cattle, horses and wildlife from munching on our peas, corn, lettuce, swiss chard, onions and potatoes.

Dad plowed it with the tractor and helped us plant.  He had a rhyme for counting the four corn seeds that went into every hill: “One for me, one for the crow, one to rot and one to grow!

Mama made us weed, but she wasn’t very strict, so our garden was sometimes weedy.  It was watered with a leaky hose strung from the well across the dirt parking area; moving the hose around the garden was another job for Mama and for us.

I was always willing to pick the green peas, still my favorite vegetable, followed closely by vine-ripened tomatoes. 

When my grandchildren ask, “Grandma, did you ever tell a lie?” my mind flies back to the first of many.

I was about six years old. My sister Jeanne, about age 14, wanted to cook creamed peas and red potatoes, in a white sauce made with plenty of cream from our brown Swiss cow—is your mouth watering yet?

When the peas disappeared, Jeanne came unglued—she probably had to make the dish for a 4-H project, making this an even more heinous crime.

Cornered, I denied the theft unequivocally, several times.  She produced evidence in the form of pea pods and I was tried and convicted. 

The trouble with having lots of older siblings is that it’s like having extra parents.  But I preferred Jeanne’s tongue-lashings to anyone else’s!

Aunt Saville—the 4-H leader—had a beautiful garden with few weeds.  When I helped my cousins pick peas and raspberries, they weren’t allowed to eat any, or at least, very few.  I ate too many.  Aunt Saville didn’t mess around asking if I was lying, she could see the guilt all over me (and all over my face!)

I thought that was a terrible way to run a garden. I must’ve planned to graze my way through life, so it was a good lesson for me.

My husband had been raised on a potato farm, so in 1977, a small garden plot sounded much easier than the acres of potatoes he’d weeded, sometimes while listening to the sounds of the Basalt, Idaho, 4th of July parade.  His father and my Aunt Saville would’ve hit it off, the way they broke the child labor laws!

Since we lived in a tiny apartment in Caldwell, we helped a widow lady, Verna Waansgard, cultivate her garden. When the vegetables were ripe, Mrs. Waansgard and Norma Norris (later Egelund), and Norma’s daughter Anita (Bake) helped me re-learn the canning skills Mama had tried to teach me. 

No matter how long we’d been working, no matter how tired we were, Mrs. Waansgard, in her 80s, and Norma, in her 70s, just kept on going ‘til the job was done.  They could’ve taught the Energizer bunny a thing or two.

We’ve had a garden ever since. This year, we planted a new squash that became as bad as a Brazilian rain forest or even a pumpkin, choking out cucumbers, butternut squash and summer squash. 

When it started on the tomato vines, I got my machete and rubbed it out. Nothing comes between me and my tomatoes!

1 comment:

  1. Love your pictures and stories. Gardens do have a special place in your heart after all the time you spend taking care of them.