By Rick Houser –
It happens every spring and I still don’t really understand why. As winter melts away and spring advances, it still puzzles me. As the flowers bloom and the trees bud out and begin to develop leaves and the world around us takes that step forward to come alive, I am still amazed at what I am seeing.
On Fruit Ridge Road the coming of spring brought out more than just Mother Nature turning our world green and alive. A major event that took place at our home and others around us was the planting of the gardens. If my memory is correct, my Dad and Mom, my Aunt Margaret and Uncle Charles, along with Grandma Houser, worked in unison to make their gardens and I don’t think they would have wanted it any other way.
I recall my Dad had most of the equipment to plow and prepare a garden. He ran the big equipment and my Aunt, Mom, and Grandma delivered the manual labor to make the garden what it was going to be. I know that the first good days of spring were when the soil could be worked to a point where it was good to plant, so with the season upon us, here’s what took place.
In those days we all made big gardens, not for showing off but because we did a lot of living from them. So when Dad would disc the ground, the work began. In our garden we laid off rows to plant peas in. Then a couple of rows were laid out to plant the cabbage and some early green beans and a small amount of sugar corn. Since it was still early enough for frost to show up, we still would plant a little corn so if the frost didn’t arrive we would have corn on the cob early and that would be a treat.
What took a lot of the time was planting the Irish potatoes. First they had to be cut into pieces so that each piece would have at least two eyes per slice. Then a good size area was laid off so that we could plant between 100-200 pounds of seed potatoes. The potato crop was one of major importance to a farmer’s garden as the farmer’s wife used a lot of potatoes in her daily cooking. To feed all the hands they needed to, a starchy product was at the top of the list because hands in the field would burn a ton of carbs every day.
Now we all wanted to plant a big and proper garden but with this we planted gardens that also would compliment each other’s garden, for example, if one was between say plantings of green beans, the other family member would have them ripe and ready to use. With this coordination of crops in play, those on Fruit Ridge were never low on vegetables from the garden. It is here where I must also add that the families I come from were exceptionable gardeners.
Everyone gardened in a different way. My Dad gardened in volume and would plant in a coordination so as to always have certain vegetables in supply. My Aunt Margaret gardened not only in volume, but she would aim to produce items from her garden that would fill her canning needs but also deliver a vegetable that would be of a size rarely if ever seen. In today’s world she would have produced that huge tomato that one sees on a Burgee Seed Catalog cover. It was fun to go to her garden and see what she had grown. As an example she delivered a five and three quarters pound potato. All I can say is try to imagine that.
My Grandma Houser also was a special gardener. Not only did she grow a large yield, she also delivered a picture perfect vegetable. I recall she spent many hours creating her final product. There also was Uncle Roy who might have been the absolute best, and cousin Tom Houser who grew good gardens, but in his case he would grow new and unique vegetables that we had yet to see.
In that time we all looked forward to meeting in one of the gardens and working together to create a garden that would not only look nice, but produce with quality and quantity. I know that in the gardens was where a lot of gossip was taking place. There really wasn’t a time to take a break and there wasn’t a time to allow the latest news to not be delivered. This was a time when all who were there were doing a positive thing and at the same time they were all enjoying each other’s company.
It is safe to say that in the spring of the year a farmer’s life is definitely a busy life. But when we got to the garden, getting to spend time with each other became a time that was valued.
I guess you take from this that I am focused on time? I know during these years I saw my Dad take extra time to be with his sister and mother. I’m not sure if he was looking ahead and seeing that time was a valued item. Maybe he knew time wasn’t going to last forever. Whatever the case, he saw to it that he made time to spend with them. Sitting here now I wish I had thought more about time instead of the crop that had to be grown. It is a time that I will never see again and they were special times to say the least.
So when your garden is together, stop and think about the row of good memories you just made.
Rick Houser grew up on a farm near Moscow in Clermont County and loves to share stories about his youth and other topics. If you wish to read more of his stories he has two books available to read. “There are Places I remember” and Memories ARE From the Heart” He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.