Wednesday, July 30, 2014

BROWN: A bountiful crop of memories

By LINDA BROWN, Hold Me up a Little Longer, Lord | 6/19/2013

For as long as I can remember, my dad had a garden.

Actually, it was more than a garden; in our rural community it was known as “the garden.” It was an honor of distinction, I suppose, since virtually everyone had a garden back then.

For as long as I can remember, my dad had a garden.

Actually, it was more than a garden; in our rural community it was known as “the garden.” It was an honor of distinction, I suppose, since virtually everyone had a garden back then.

I believe Daddy’s garden won the naming honor not only because of its massive size, but also because of the amount of fresh vegetables it produced each year.

Our family ate from it; my dad’s family of firefighters ate from it, as did their families. What we couldn’t eat or share with others, mom and I put up in the big freezer in the garage. What couldn’t be frozen was either pickled or canned in Mason jars.

Dad himself wasn’t much of a vegetable eater, but he planted a wide variety to satisfy the tastes of others. First would be the lettuce and green onions; later he would plant tomatoes and pepper plants, potatoes, beets, turnip greens and green beans. He grew cucumbers for pickles, and squash and okra that mom would roll in cornmeal and fry in her iron skillet. I think we were the first family ever to cook zucchini on the grill and stuff pea pods with cream cheese or chicken salad.

Regardless of how many families Dad’s garden was feeding, there always was a surplus of nature’s finest, which Dad would take to the county home on Wednesdays and to the church parking lot on Saturday morning. It tickled him to be able to give away the fruits of his labor.

It must have been a lot of work to tend to a garden so large, but Daddy did it year after year until he got too old for all that bending and stooping. The garden became smaller and smaller each year until it was finally four tomato plants in terra-cotta pots on the back porch.

The last time I saw the garden, grass grew over the spot with no signs of a garden ever having been there. Funny, how the spot looked so much smaller than it did when it was a cornucopia of sizes, shapes and colors, tended and cared for by a man with magic hands.

Now Daddy’s garden is only a memory and has returned to the earth from which it came. I can still see it in my mind just as it was when it was alive and thriving. And, as long as anyone remembers it, the garden will never die.

Linda Brown is marketing director for The Ottawa Herald. Email her at lbrown@ottawaherald.com

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