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Kicking It Around the Garden

When I think about planting a garden today, I’m thinking about a few pots of herbs for the kitchen along with an Early Girl tomato plant or two. It’s a modest effort compared to my youth when growing up on a Kansas farm.

Just the thought of planting a few veggies takes me back to the one-acre garden my mother planted every year. At 12, I was too self-centered to realize the work she put in to feed our family of three.

She planted rows and rows of tomatoes, sweet corn, potatoes, green beans, snap peas, lettuce, and strawberries. Shoot, we even grew our own popcorn! Since the field was not irrigated, every plant required daily-hand watering! During the summer, each tomato plant got 5-gallons of water every day.

But really, that was just the beginning. Next came weeding, weeding, weeding, hoeing, and more weeding, and watering. You get the picture. The cycle went on for six endless months.

And then of course there were chickens. Eggs to be gathered, coops cleaned, chicks fed, and pullets to be fried for Sunday lunch. There were hogs for bacon and ham, and Holsteins for milk. Our small dairy provided cream for butter and homemade ice cream while the bulk of it was sold.

It has taken me years to appreciate the endless hours of toil it took to feed the three of us.

Still, that is only a part of it. Because once the garden grew, it had to be harvested, washed, canned, labeled, and lined up on the shelves in the basement to be eaten over the coming months.

Not that I didn’t have to help. Are you kidding? By 12, I could butcher a chicken, shuck corn, snap peas and green beans, and boil canning jars along with the best of them. Although I was best suited at making chocolate pie.

Trust me, when I left Kansas at 17, it was without a backward glance because I never aspired to become a farmer’s wife. I’d had it up to my ears with planting, weeding, canning, butchering, freezing, and all of it.

To this day, I shudder at how hard it was. Primarily the work was done by my mother because daddy spent his days outdoors driving a tractor tending to the barley, alfalfa, and feed corn for the cattle, besides the twice-daily grind of milking a few Holsteins. And as kids, we just didn’t get it.

That said, when I left Kansas and landed in San Francisco in 1961, it was everything my 17 year old-mind imagined it to be.

Fashionable ladies still wore hats and white gloves on the cable cars going to work. It was glamorous to me and it was a million miles from Oz.

Fast forward 60 years and I can’t help but wonder if I too could grow enough food in a year to keep us alive? I for one think I’d be a lot thinner.

My wee garden offers some hope. VJ put in a drip system on a timer which should provide enough water without having to lug a daily bucket of water around the yard.

As of today, we’ve planted three tomato plants in a large horse trough, two more in wash tubs, three cucumber plants, radishes, and lots of herbs in tubs.

I’ve already harvested basil and spinach, along with some watercress. Parsley is abundant and so is my pot of fresh sage. The dill plant looks a bit ragged, otherwise everything else seems to be doing well.

The carrots have been a disappointment growing into gnarly orbs instead of elegant cones. And on the happy side, the rabbits are just ignoring everything. The only thing left to do now is wait and see.

Elizabeth can be reached at [email protected].

 

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