I remember so much about a childhood full of gardening. So where did I get my deadly thumb? I kill house plants. I have tried gardens enough to know that I am a toxic gardener.
My maternal grandparents bought two city lots when they retired. One they lived on, with a small garden in the rear, the other was their ‘real’ garden. The whole lot was full of vegetables. From lettuce to all kinds of squash, they grew it and sold at the local grocery store. I watched and sometimes helped in that fabulous garden.
My paternal grandparents were farmers, and that grandmother also kept a full garden. My own parents gardened with a zest.
Dad farmed with his father as we lived only about a half mile down the road. Every year we planted an acre of potatoes. I never really minded the planting part. We’d have a huge bag of seed potatoes we’d cut to have one or two ‘eyes’ in each section. Dad made the rows and we dropped chunks of seed potatoes, following behind the tractor as we went. It was a family project of dirty shoes, falling in the rows laughing at each other, and later pulling up the brown skinned orbs.
My mother, like her parents, always had huge gardens. I don’t think I even knew why grocers carried canned goods.
The leafy pale green lettuce, carrots, radishes, and onions were always in the front rows. They were the first ready for consumption. Mom would send one of us out with a knife and bowl to cut the tender lettuce leaves, pull some radishes and onions for a salad.
The dark green tops of the onions were chopped into the salad as well as the slices of radish and new onions. I didn’t particularly care for onions, but mom would eat them like a tonic.
Over the later spring and early summer we’d be adding carrots and cucumbers, and those delicious tomatoes. Then the lettuce would start getting tough and we’d switch back to head lettuce.
Then we were loosing peas from long pods, and snapping green beans, checking tomatoes daily to grab the ripe ones before the bugs feasted.
I remember helping her plant, weed, and pick those vegetables. Nothing ever stopped her. Nothing stops her now. Mom was in her element in her garden and in spite of arthritis and sore knees she continues.
The one thing that would cause her the most pain wasn’t her body. It was every time the livestock got into the garden and trampled her efforts. We’d herd them back to their pens, and temporarily mend the fence till Dad got home. Mom let him know that she felt like butchering every animal on the place. Dad mended the fence and we were at peace until the next time.
Canning time was always a challenge. We had a large family and there was always a toddler around. Mom would count on us older children to keep them away from her knives and pressure cooker. Her canning always involved a pressure cooker. There would be a seal, and there would be no botulism in her goods. It was a law to her.
Sweet corn was planted by the acre so that was dad’s job. Shucking was something we kids did, getting as many of those tassels off as we could. Mom usually froze the corn rather than canning.
We had no idea why anyone in the world would be starving. Didn’t they have gardens and pressure cookers? What was the deal? Why didn’t they just go buy some pigs and cattle?
We’d hear in church about the blights in Africa or other areas of the world where our missionaries spread the word and tried to help the people with their basic needs. I couldn’t figure out why.
We were told to eat what we had with extra thanks because all those other people the missionaries were helping didn’t have much at all. I had no mental picture of tribes living on land that was inundated with monstrous monsoons that dried up into waste lands with very little water. Just plant some seeds, and buy some pigs and cattle.
As I grew older, I learned that not all people could plant a garden or buy pigs and cattle.
We ate like royalty and never batted an eyelash. We were definitely not wealthy, but we never missed a meal.
If my toxic thumb weren’t in my way, maybe I’d carry on the family’s legacy of gardening and growing things. Or maybe I’m just too involved with other things to put enough effort into the art.
I am thankful for the green thumbs that keep growing the produce sharing their plenty with toxic gardeners like me. My mother still provides me with ripe juicy tomatoes and fresh fleshy cucumbers. I don’t pick it anymore, but I still eat it.