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Monday, July 6, 2009

Daddy Bill's Garden

When I was in 2nd grade, my parents built a house next door to my grandparents, Mama Nay and Daddy Bill. How lucky can a kid be, to live next door to Mama Nay??? I have so many fond memories of growing up in her shadow, and whatever goodness that may be found in me is, in part, certainly due to her influence. Life wasn't always a bowl of cherries, though. From mid to late summer, many of my mornings started very, very early, and my brother and I would sleepwalk our way up the path, with the dew gathering between our bare toes, to fall onto the couch at Mama Nay's house while she and our mom set about the task of canning and freezing the vegetables. Oh yeah, Daddy Bill (and my dad) had a huge garden, and every summer would find them harvesting the goods, shelling, shucking, silking, and peeling them, and then doing whatever it was they did in the kitchen to ensure that everyone had veggies for the winter. There was no air conditioning in the house, so it was necessary to start the process very early, before the heat became too oppressive. She had this big blue fan on a stand with wheels that would be moved into the kitchen, and those small, old-fashioned oscillating fans to keep them cool. Michael and I would snooze for a while, then watch Captain Kangaroo and Mister Rogers on channel 8, before going outside to play in the all-dirt front yard. I can still remember the smell of the fresh beans and peas, and how I longed to have my own personal knife and cobb of corn to play with. I was fascinated at the neat, perfectly symmetrical little "rows" of corn that slid into the bowl with each pass of the knife. And I particularly loved when the cobb was bare, my grandma would take the knife and scrape it over the cobb (I still don't know why she did that), and little pieces of corn would fly everywhere and spatter on her glasses. My fingers would itch to get into the "blanching" sink and wash the peas and butterbeans. I enjoyed watching the little plastic freezer bags being filled to the exact mark, and how happy everyone was at the neat little rows of peas sitting on the counter when the day's work was done. At the time, like most kids, I wasn't so fond of eating my vegetables, but I do remember how I loved to "work" in the garden. Daddy Bill would borrow Mr. Raymond's mule and plow up the garden each spring. I loved the smell of the freshly-broken earth, and how it felt to walk barefoot in the cool dirt. He would let me "help" plant the seeds, and taught me how to cover each little one carefully with the soil. MMM mmmm. Now I love those veggies and can still see in my mind the rows and rows of okra, cucumbers, squash, tomatoes, cabbage, corn, green beans, peas, butterbeans, watermelons, peppers, and my favorites as a child... the tall, smiling faces of the sunflowers.

My dad and my Uncle Gene kept the garden going for years after Daddy Bill died, but now the patch of land lies unused. Dad stopped using it a couple of years ago, and now has a smaller garden closer to the house. I worried about him being out in the hot sun, out of view from my mom, working such a large garden anyway. Uncle Gene has a smaller garden at his house now too.

Yes, many of my childhood summer mornings were spent in this fashion. Though I didn't realize it at the time, growing one's own food supply is something to be proud of, and I'm thankful for all the sweat and labor (and the memories!) that went into the preparation, maintenance, harvest and preservation of Daddy Bill's Garden.

1 comment:

  1. Your grandma was "milking" the cob when she scraped the knife over it after cutting off the kernels. Thats how you get such good creamed corn :)- Kelly