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Dirt: Can you dig it?

“There is a garden in every childhood, an enchanted place where colors are brighter, the air softer, and the morning more fragrant than ever again.”

-Elizabeth Lawrence

For me, there couldn’t be a truer quote. The garden of my childhood was a place of wonder, magic, and hard work. My mother’s garden at the old homestead was huge. When I say huge, I mean it.

The plow that we used to till the fields didn’t turn a single piece of sod on the back-40 until the old man, or one of us kids, turned the garden first. That’s how big it was, literally and figuratively.  It took a two-bottom plow to turn it in the spring. Granted, it only took a handful of turns, but, nonetheless, we got the plow out … and the disk … breaking up the dirt.

Then my mother went to work … planting, weeding, fighting slugs and caterpillars, the odd cow, and trying to keep us kids out of the pea patch. My father had cut pea sticks out of cedar shakes and, as kids, the peas were high enough for us to hid between the rows as we had pea pod fights … gobbling down the peas and trying to put a welt on one of your siblings’ faces with a well tossed pod all at the same time.

The pea sticks also made good swords, whether battling you siblings or something grander (my Jon Snow fought the Battle of the Bastards man, many times long before J.R.R. Martin dreamed up his saga).

But back to the garden. How many peas were there? Well, after us kids got through our pea battles, my mother’s goal was usually 40 pints of peas that got shelled, blanched, and then frozen for winter consumption.

As much as my mother loved to garden, our garden was really for sustenance. In addition to the peas, there were enough potatoes and carrots put away in the root cellar to keep us through most of the winter. Cabbages were often turned into sauerkraut (which no one other than my parents ate) and fresh radishes and green onions were almost always on the dinner table throughout the summer.

For us kids, it truly was an enchanted place. We would stand in the garden, seemingly for hours but likely much less, eating fresh peas, radishes, and onions. Talk about never having to get us to eat our vegetables, except the cabbage, of course.

Other than my university days, I think I’ve planted a garden, of some sort, every spring since I was a youngster. Mine are never quite as enchanting as the garden of my childhood, but they are still worth it.

So, finally back on the homestead, on Sunday I fired up the plow or, more aptly, the tractor with the plow attached (darn, grammar police are everywhere or was that darn grammar police are everywhere?) and turned a sizable chunk of the backyard. How much of that will become our garden only time will tell.

But now’s the time. Get out and get some plants in the ground. Who knows, you might not have to force-feed vegetables to your kids and you might be able to create something for them that is “more fragrant than ever again.”

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