|This photo was taken of my own garden this morning.|
I have four sisters and no brothers, all pretty close in age. We played "house" a lot! I didn't especially enjoy it, but my sister, who is 16 months older than me, always MADE me play with her. I was an indoor kind of girl, she was an outdoor kind of girl. But she was bigger,older, and had long fingernails, so I usually had to do what she told me.
Every year after the corn was all picked, our dad would let us play in the corn field. We played and played and played. Our imaginations grew by leaps and bounds. We played cops and robbers - the robbers had to hide out from the cops in the corn until the cops found them. We played cowboys and indians. We would pretend that we were lost in the jungle because our plain crashed and we had to try not to get eaten by the wild animals in the jungle, which always included tigers. Tigers were part of our role plays quite often. I'm not quite sure what our fascination was with them, but they were big and scary and we loved using them as our predator. :) Many times we just played good old fashioned hide-n-seek. When the corn field was off limits or not tall enough, we used the orchard and the irrigation ditches.
The corn field wasn't just a place for play though. We also used the corn field as a place of safety - from mom's wrath! We would always hide there when we had pushed her buttons a few too many times and knew the fly swatter had our names on it! I remember good times with my sisters amongst those tall protectors.
My dad is the gardener of all gardeners. He has a thumb as green as these corn stalks. This meant we always had a garden. And I don't mean just a little corner next the house kind of garden. It was big. We always had peas, beets, summer squash, hubbard squash (for pies), pumpkins, potatoes, tomatoes, green beans, carrots, corn, and occasionally other vegetables that he would experiment with. He always rotated the garden to different areas of the yard to give the soil time to recover. Harvest time meant hours and hours in the kitchen for mom, preserving all of our bounty for the winter. We also had apple and pear trees in the orchard and the years they would produce meant even more work. Sometimes mom would take us up on the mountain and we would pick wild raspberries and make jelly too. I can still smell that wonderful sweet raspberry goodness when my mind drifts to those memories. I think that's why I chose jelly for my first attempt at canning food as a young mother.
My dad still grows a big garden every year. My mom still bottles or freezes a lot of it. They give a lot away. It's hard for my dad to grow a garden now. He has problems with his back and has rheumatoid arthritis. He suffers from chronic pain on a daily basis so working in the garden is a difficult task for him most of the time, but he loves it. That's why he keeps doing it. "It's becoming a lost art," he tells me. He knows how to preserve the seeds off his plants to use the next year.
I've learned so much from my dad, the gardener. He is a great resource. My tomato plants haven't been producing any fruit this year. I know they require fertilization, but I haven't had this happen before. They just always produce fruit, but not this time. I don't know where all the bees are at this year. So I called Dad up and asked him what I should do. He told me to use a paint brush or my finger and touch all of the flowers between the plants to spread the pollen. I did. This was about 10 days ago that I started doing it. I stop and touch all of the flowers I see whenever I walk by my plants now. I noticed yesterday that I now have two little tomatoes already. Thanks Dad!
My childhood was very difficult in many ways, but I remember always feeling like everything would work out and be okay this time of the year when the garden was close to maturity. It was a great comfort to me to know that no matter how hard things were for my parents financially, we would have food to eat. I am grateful for the security our garden gave me as a child who had a high probability for worrying. I am grateful for the good memories our garden gave me that endear my sisters to me. I'm grateful for a Dad who taught me where my food comes from and to appreciate everything that comes across my plate. I'm grateful to have been taught to respect the land and to be kind to it so that it would always provide for me and my needs. I'm grateful to have been taught to be grateful to a kind, loving, and generous Heavenly Father because all of these things come from Him. I find myself reflecting on how blessed I have been in my life - thanks to my dad's garden.