Wednesday, April 8, 2015


Maybe if I think about gardening a little more and less about this lingering season of cold, wet, snowy semi spring, I'll feel better about things. Problem is - I haven't been too successful at the gardening thing for the past few seasons either. Seems like another just right place to use my favorite bail out expression: Hapless Hope.

I GREW UP IN A VEGETABLE GARDEN. I am old enough to remember when there was no TV, no telephone and no food in our house in tin cans. There was food in tin cans but we ate from home canned jars and right out of the gardens that my maternal grandfather maintained the year round. Disclaimer: OK, so this was in southern Louisiana. We had three seasons: Summer, still summer and a week in January that we called winter. We cut the grass in January, just so you know.

In his younger days My grandfather, Shug, sold much of what he produced. He was what was called a truck farmer. After moving to Baton Rouge and going to work at Standard Oil, he became mostly what is called a market farmer, selling much of his produce to local grocery stores directly. Of course, my mother and aunt next door put up great amounts of food and after the deep freeze came into our house many things were frozen.

Shug made an effort at making a farmer out of me. It didn't take too well. This was the day of the big wheeled push plow, an instrument hardly seen anymore except in antique shops and displays of torture devices such as the rack, thumb screw and whip. I never got the hang of plowing a straight line, and he never let me forget it. Years later, I realized that I got more from him than he ever knew. He talked about what he was doing and I suppose I soaked up some of that gardening wisdom without knowing it.

I have had excellent gardens. Such a garden has not happened recently. As a matter of fact, it has been a rough several years for gardening for food here on Elmwood Road. There are reasons for some of that. First we have been too busy doing other things and being away. A good garden demands some attention. Second, last year we forgot to "sweeten" our acidic soil and things just did not work well. This year we did not forget and we made some wonderful garlic at least. I figure if you make garlic, you can claim a certain amount of success. Who has not experienced that rush that comes from pealing a thumb sized clove of garlic, fresh from the soil, and popping it into your mouth? It's what summer in Maine is all about. You can just feel the healing deep inside. Don't mind the tears - and tears will come - it's all good.

I used to "start" seedlings in the throes of winter to get a head start on things. That worked just like it was supposed to but - well, I don't know, I am not sure that the effort brings forth the result that is anticipated. For me, anyway. We go down to THE GARDEN SPOT in North Pownal and load up on sets that only need to be put into the prepared beds. Call me lazy. Call me a sluggard. Call me a shortcut artist. Call me Jerry however when it's supper time.

What I do miss about gardening at these latitudes is speckled butter beans, crowder peas (purple hull), okra and figs. Yes figs. How I loved to put up jars of figs. My cousin by marriage, Edna, sent me four pints of fig preserves from her back yard last summer. I have one pint left. I'm thinking of some nice things to say to her that might encourage her to repeat such a generous gift. Not much equals a hot biscuit covered with preserved figs.

We will do the garden again. We will exercise our hope glands and dig, fertilize and water with all the assurance of true believers. What happens is what we get. I actually like the process. All except the digging and hauling of dirt. Thing is - time spent in the dirt is never wasted time. I read that somewhere. Could it be true?

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