The Way We Grew

this special guest installment of The Way We Were was written by Rhonda Newton
With planting season rapidly approaching, my dad’s gardens come to mind. He always had big, beautiful gardens that provided abundance, not only to us, but to neighbors and friends in the Howard’s Ridge Community. My grandma always said that we’d never go hungry because Daddy was so generous with the spoils. 
Our basketball goal was right next to the garden, and although none of us were athletic stand outs, we’d go out there and play. If the ball ended up in the garden, we’d have to get Daddy, so he could retrieve it. That was sacred soil, and we weren’t allowed to enter. He’d say, “You’ll tromp it all down!” Needless to say, we got out of a LOT of work. No weeding, watering, potato digging or picking for us, but because of that, NONE of us knew much about it.
When I ask people if they garden, I often get this answer, “I swore when I left home, that I would never have a one again.” These are folks who had to raise almost everything they ate and I’m sure, it was endless back breaking work! 
Most people didn’t have gloves to wear to wear to pull weeks or pick up rocks and many had to tote water from a spring or creek. Folks from my generation and younger have no clue! I whine about dragging a garden hose. 
The first garden that Terry and I had was just sad. I was lazy and didn’t weed. We just mowed between the rows. Nothing much grew but the twelve hills of zucchini we planted. He didn’t know much more than me. We had zucchini out the wazoo!
Fast forward forty some years, and I now know all of the good things you can make with it -- relish, salads, stir-fry, mock apple pie filling, etc. Back then, however, I fried it or made zucchini bread, and you can only eat so much. You hear stories of people who leave their car unlocked and return to find their back seats full of zucchini! Ha! We never thought of that.
One year we just planted tomatoes in front of the house. I was the queen of that single wide trailer, and life was good. Those tomatoes grew to be about eight feet tall, but because of the heat we supposed, we never had a single tomato! Marijuana plants look quite similar, and our landlord kept a close watch on us, but there was no harvest, fruit or otherwise. 
Fast forward several years, we attempted to garden again. We didn’t plant much, and the little rows of corn were pretty! That is, until I left the mower in neutral on a slope and took them down.
With hair stylist hours and kids’ activities, gardening wasn’t a priority, but as our lives changed, I had more time. I became interested in being a better cook and just knew that fresh food is better food. I asked Terry to build raised beds. They’re the way to go! No need for a tiller-- just go out, break the soil with a hoe and you’re good. Easy to water, little weeding, and you can grow a lot in a small area. 
One year, I got my seeds from a reputable place in town. I planted the usual stuff -- yellow squash, zucchini, etc., and when the vines started producing, all but one had odd looking little squash on them. I didn’t know what they were, but that bed was full of them! I picked a few and prepared them the country way and they were okay, but still a mystery. When I told a client about it, she replied, “If you sliced me thin, breaded and fried me, I’d probably taste okay too!”
I showed her one of the squash and she told me that was a butternut. Turns out, those seeds were sorted by some college kids, and either they got lazy in their sorting or decided to pull a prank, but several people I talked to had the same problem. Jim Due told me that they had planted green beans and ended up with two varieties of bush beans and different pole beans! We had a good laugh over that. I miss that guy. 
Anyway, we’ve had lots of gardens since then -- some really good, some not so great. But there’s nothing like fresh garden tomatoes, etc., and they’re worth all the work. I’ve learned a lot. You may not believe in gambling, but if you garden, you gamble. Much like life, you’re dependent on the elements.
Your quality depends on how much you put into it, though. You can plant a seed and it may grow, but it won’t flourish. You need to tend to it. Weed out the bad if you can, nourish the good and keep looking up.
Happy Gardening!
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