Wednesday, August 24, 2011
Wednesday, August 10, 2011
When I was a little girl I loved Ms. Molly's garden. It was as secret as you could get. Her yard was mostly shady but over on the east side of her property sat her garden, no shadows to dim the sunlight. Her garden however was surrounded by a 6 foot plank fence made from barn siding. Each plank fit closely together so neither dog or stray animal could get in to it. The gate was made of the same material and had a large iron bale handle that fit over a rusty protrusion and that kept it from being invaded by anything. She didn't let just anybody in her garden...
Ms. Molly was short, slender and freckled. A real country beauty with little wire rim glasses and silver streaks running through her once blazing head of red hair of which she always wore in a tight bun.. On weekdays she wore work clothes, jeans and a checkered blouse of some kind and always an apron. On Saturday and Sunday she always wore a dress and hose, she rolled her hose down to her knees and held them up with little elastic garters. Although I knew her and Mr. Elmer's last name very well I always called them by Ms. Molly and Mr. Elmer, I think its a "southern thing."
Her garden was like a Cathedral, way more respectful and perfect than our family's garden. I recall watching her pull her carrots one year and it seemed they slipped out of the ground like that had been greased. Her soil was a sandy rich loam. She took great care to make it that way. She told me once that her biggest gardening secret was her turkeys. In the fall when every little thing had been harvested she would lock her turkeys in the garden during the day with a tub of cold water. They would pick and poop and pick some more all across the rows. Their feet would scratch up the soil and work up any stray weed seeds or weeds and then nature would take it's course and amend the soil.
Ms. Molly was my make believe Grandmother, though I never told her so. She had all the qualities that I would think a grandmother should have. Physical affection was not her strong point but her words were like hugs to me . She would tell me about the farmer who was always fighting a rabbit because he was trying to steal his carrots and cabbages as she worked along her rows picking and weeding, she could squat down a garden row it seemed for hours. I learned a lot about the soil from her. She was my first garden guru and I was very close to her. I know when I tell my grandchildren some little tidbit of something I think I know I always hope that they remember and are able to use that knowledge when the time comes someday. So if I remember things I was told maybe they will remember, maybe there is hope, maybe they were listening after all.
As years went by I no longer lived the country life and gardening was far from my mind. I thought I would marry and stay in the Windy City but I didn't. Circumstances brought me to town life in Indiana, I didn't live in an apartment anymore, I lived in a house with a yard. I thought I would grow my first garden...
I just happened to be fortunate enough to live next door to another garden diva who would try her best to teach me the way in which my garden should grow, Mrs. Timmons. Mrs. Timmons had been a school teacher, never had any children of her own and took care of her husband of many years who was bedridden from a severe stroke. I became her project, or my garden did.
She told me I must till down deeper into my garden so the roots would be able to grow freely. I learned that since my garden would be in new ground there would be no need to fertilize that year. I would also be told to water deep or I would cause the root system to be shallow and that wouldn't be good for leaf and fruit development. I was told not to work in a wet garden, this could spread disease, to chop my weeds off at dirt level instead of stirring up the ground when I was weeding because I would kick up dormant weed seeds and just cause more weeds. If I was to use any fertilizer at all it should be manure tea, she felt it did not burn the plants and was weak enough that you could almost water with it everyday. We would go to our local zoo and load hubby's truck up with Zoo doo. It was like gold! They won't let you do that anymore however... I think they sell it now. I used to wonder how much was monkey poo and how much was horse manure, what was the ratio. I not only learned about vegetable gardening from her but also the art of raising flowers as well and she taught me how to can and freeze and not to waste. I would come home from the store and my storm door would be open just a little and there sitting on the thresh hold would be a quart jar of beans and a clove of garlic sitting on top. She wasn't just being nice she was saying in her own way that she was doing her canning now and I better get to mine. Those years were so good. We canned everything we could. I took her to pick strawberries and blueberries, we made catsupTimmons had passed away and I cried all day... I expect to see her someday in another garden setting.
Well one day we finally bought some land and I thought I am finally homesteading. That first garden on our land was so big I worked in it from the time I got up till it was time for bed. Everybody in the family was hauling produce to work in the trunks of their cars to sell or give away. I canned 104 jars of grape juice of which our teen age son drank all but four I think. He called it the nectar of the gods. He'd stick one in the frig on his way out the door to school and drink it when he came home from school that day.
I remember doing 12 dozen ears of corn late one night. When the last kernel of corn was cut it was daylight. But as time wore on the garden got smaller and I went to work. Eventually I went back to school and became a nurse. We bought a new house and with it dug a new garden. We were still in the country but on a smaller piece of land, much easier to take care of. It was that garden that I planted my first herb garden and learned what I could about their use. We did that for seven years and eventually moved back to the city to be closer to the grand babies. I was selfish, I didn't want them to go to a babysitter while Mom and Dad worked, I wanted to keep them. And so I did and here I am now with my little primitive city garden and I am starting to can again and even used manure tea this year. My water bill is staggering however because we have not gotten much rain. I figure maybe God is trying to kill out something in our area, maybe a pest or a plague, I certainly don't know the mind of God. I guess that I think gardening is a good thing, a healthy thing. I know the Bible says that God liked to walk in His garden in the cool of the day, me too...