I never thought I would say this, but I miss helping my father grow vegetables in the garden. I’ve tried my hand at veggies patches over the years, but they could not hold a candle to what my father could muster. Frustration rose in me as weeds took over my attempts at gardening. I tallied some semi-successes now and then. Those related to how well the tiller operated or not, and whether I tolerated the heat, bugs, and a bent back or sore knees.
Flower gardening, however, I found much more to my liking. I edged the perimeter of our house with a thick skirt of perennials: hostas, lambs ear, lilies of the valley, coral bells, coneflowers, sedum, iris, peonies, astilbe, and more. They came back year after year and generally required less of a commitment in the hot summer sun. Granted you can’t make a meal of flowers.
Now–even if I wanted to–I can’t be out in the hot sun or bend over and weed a vegetable patch. I have deck boxes which I fill with plants with the help of my family. They are easy to tend and are a way for me to watch something grow and enjoy a small taste of homegrown veg. This year I have herbs, a few vegetables, colorful foliage plants, and flowers. For me gardening traditionally is a thing of the past, but some days I long to trudge through the dirt and clean the weeds out of a row of cucumbers, carrots, potatoes, peas, or beans and have the sense that I accomplished something valuable. Growing vegetables and fruits for consumption fulfills one of life’s basic needs: food.
Another Valuable Life Lesson
Growing food can mean more than having something to eat. On the farm as a family, we grew cucumbers to take to the local pickling factory in the summertime. This was not a small patch but acres, which we picked by hand. I had a perpetual sore back from my bent position, and in the gap between my shirt and shorts, I had a permanent burn/tan line. This gave us extra money to purchase necessities but also have some spending money for fun items we wanted.
I think one year my siblings bought their first snowmobile from the money they made from picking “pickles”. Another year when it was just my father and me out in the field picking a much smaller planted area, I used my share of the money to purchase school clothes. Out of the Sears catalog I picked one particle outfit: a cotton candy pink, name-brand button down shirt, a gray and pink Argyle vest, and a pair of Guess jeans. I didn’t usually have the luxury of purchasing trendy, name-brand clothing. I remember wearing that outfit and others with pride, because I’d earned the money myself. As a middle-schooler I learned the end result of hard work.
In addition to growing and tending acres of cucumbers on our farm, our vegetable patch was significant. Rows of corn, peas, beans, carrots, lettuce, radish, onions, cabbage, rutabaga, tomatoes, and spinach had to be weeded, plus all the veggies and fruits planted in small mounds of dirt, like summer and winter squash, potatoes, watermelon and cantaloupe. Dad planted stands of raspberries and beds of strawberries too.
I miss sitting down to eat a meal wholly consisting of the food I helped grow. Even most of the bread I ate as a kid came from wheat my dad grew. I remember store bought food on our table too, probably more than my siblings do, being the youngest, but most of our meals were made from scratch with whole, homegrown foods.
My parents blessed me to give me that kind upbringing—knowing the taste of one’s labor. It made me the person I am today, being willing to work hard for what I need, what I want. I thank my dad, for teaching me some valuable lessons through the veg patch. I’ll always grow and tend some kinds of plants in memory of him for all things he helped grow in my life.
I see that kind of work ethic in my own children. You always breathe a sigh of relief as a parent when something positive you’ve been taught leaks through into your kid’s choices. I hope I also inspire positive growth in the other lives around me from the lessons I gleaned. The real lesson that my folks taught me—love’s labor is always worth it.