Monday, May 7, 2012

the garden connection

Our garden...a few weeks ago. It already looks a lot different.

I was wandering around out in our garden the other day and had a bit of an epiphany. Nothing extraordinary...really rather ordinary...but it made such an impact on me.

My love of gardening began when I was about 9 or 10...Noni bought me five little houseplants in 4 inch pots and the rest is history. I've been a "gardener" ever since. As I got older I got into flower gardening, dreaming about the perfect cottage garden. But one summer when we visited Chris' grandparents in Ohio I asked Grandpa if he ever planted flowers and his reply was, "Why waste the dirt on something I can't eat?"  (Or something to that effect...:)

Hmmm...good point. Since then I began to view gardening differently.

That following summer Chris built me two raised beds. And I attempted a little garden. We got a few tomatoes and a few zucchini but it wasn't a huge success. It wasn't until several years later when Chris moved those raised beds next to the deck that I attempted to plant vegetables again...zucchini, cucumber and beans. It was a success. Everything did really well and boosted my garden ego.

Since then we've enlarged our garden area a bit every year. It now takes up about a quarter of our backyard. And in the past couple of years Chris has joined me in tilling and planting and tending our garden. Last summer he honed his skills at making homemade salsa...and it is really good. He also planted two grape vines last summer that are growing like crazy. It seems he is a natural...

Each year as we plant our garden we think about, and remember, Grandpa Fred, Chris' grandpa. Grandpa Fred gardened his whole life. He grew just about everything in his younger days. But then as he got older and MS made gardening more of a challenge he pared the garden down to tomatoes, garlic and horseradish. Then he and Grandma would can jars and jars of spaghetti sauce and horseradish to share with family and friends.

Then as I was planting the beans this year I thought of my Papa Chuck. When he and Noni moved to our town to be closer to all of us my uncle built him a raised bed. He liked to grow fresh green beans. My mom told me that he'd say something about "planting a mess o' beans." It was enough to feed him and Noni and to get him out in the sunshine and digging in the dirt.

Gardening is so much more than just digging a hole and planting a tomato. Gardening is a connection. It's a connection with the earth and with the miracle of planting a tiny little seed that grows into a thriving, productive plant that provides food. Knowing that we can grow our own food and are not completely dependent on others to provide it for us really is satisfying.

Gardening is a connection with family...who more than likely gardened for survival and not just because it was popular. Grandpa Fred and Papa Chuck both shared fond memories of helping their large families tend their gardens. Admittedly, it was hard work. But it seems the pay off was more than worth it. (I loved when Papa shared stories of when he was a kid. I'll share them sometime.)

Gardening has become a connection with my husband. We really enjoy spending time in our backyard planting things and figuring out what to put where. We enjoy going to the garden center's like a date! We've gotten on the same page as far as what our goal is, too. Let's just say Grandpa Fred definitely got in our head...for the most part we're doing our best to make sure whatever we plant is edible (or at least useful).

I'll admit there are a few plants that I will always enjoy just because they're beautiful...but it's because they're a connection, too. They conjure up memories of both of my grandmothers. Grandma Dottie, my dad's mother, always had beautiful fuchsia plants hanging in her covered entry way. I always thought they looked like little ballerinas. Noni loved her flowers, too...azaleas and petunias are what I remember most. She also liked to grow fruit trees, often from a seed out of a piece of fruit she'd eaten! She grew a cherry, an apricot and an apple tree that way. (She'd be so proud of Chris...he just planted a seed from a mandarin he ate this morning. ha!)

Planting a garden is so much more than digging in the dirt and growing some food. It's a connection with loved ones...both past and present. And it's a connection with God, the creator of it all.


teekaroo said...

Lovely words and lovely memories.

Jennifer said...

love all these connections and glad that you have found this wonderful thing to do together.

Lisa Gallup said...

Great post, Michelle! The gardening bug got me when I would help my grandfather in his huge garden in Louisiana. It was always one of the best things about our visits. My love of houseplants began when I was in 7th grade and this old widow woman we knew had a house absolutely FULL of plants. She gave me a few and I haven't slowed down since! :) There is nothing better than eating food that you have grown!