Monday, July 26, 2010

I Knew This Would Happen SOME DAY

Ever since I was 5 years old, I remember seeing my dad at the helm of his garden tiller.  I knew this meant a lot of work, a lot of complaining from my older siblings, and a whole bunch of fresh veggies.  We were raised to get our chores finished before we could do anything else, and in the summer months when school was out this meant being dragged out of bed to weed the garden.  In my teenage years this meant dragging myself out of bed at noon, and then having to fight the sun at it's highest point, sweat dripping in my eyes and bugs buzzing all around me.  It was my own fault that I didn't get up at seven when my mom first started prodding me, as well as at 9 when she finally gave up.  It seemed an endless battle, having to start it all over again the following week.  I swore I would NEVER make my kid weed a garden, nor would I ever have one for that kid to weed.  What a waste of time.  Why couldn't we just buy our veggies at the store like everyone else?

I bought my first house with my now ex-husband when I was 24 years old, and the first thing I wanted before anything else was to figure out if we could have a garden on our lot.  This garnered a giant grin from my dad when I asked him if we could borrow the tiller.

The ex lasted about two minutes behind the helm, claiming the ground was just too hard and he didn't want to fight it.  Unless I wanted to dig the rows myself, my garden dreams were dashed; I didn't have the strength to run it by myself, and I certainly wasn't going to ask my dad to do it when I had a husband who should have been more willing to take care of me. This continued on to the next two houses we lived in, my trying in vain to convince him that it was worth it, that fresh veggies tasted so much better, that it would be an opportunity for us to teach Riley about working the earth, and see his excited face when the seeds we planted and tended first poked out of the ground, that it would save us money that he could then turn around and spend on his many hobbies he enjoyed by himself.  But it was a dream for another day, a day when I would be able to decide what was best for me, and for Riley, with no complaints, and no one holding us back from doing what we truly enjoyed. 

Thirteen years later, we finally have that garden.  And the same tiller that ellicited so much whining from me and my siblings when we were young, the same tiller that broke up the earth in two gardens at each of the houses we lived in as kids, the same tiller that was the start of every season filled with fresh sweet corn, beans, peas, potatoes, and many other veggies was right there by my side.  Along with my dad, who has always been there too.

After working so hard in our new yard throughout the Spring, after purchasing a huge bag of seeds, bags of onions sets, glad bulbs, and flats of tomato plants, I declared that I was just too tired to plant a garden this year.  I had been diagnosed with tendonitis in my left arm from overworking it; moving trees, digging up rocks, and just doing the general hard work it takes to landscape a new yard.  My dad had it too, mostly from helping build my house with my brother and nephew the previous summer.  So I thought we should just wait until next year.

Nope.  The morning of my dad's birthday, after firing up the old tiller and finding it needed some work, my dad completed the repairs and hauled it on up to our house.  He unloaded it from his truck and rolled it on over to the back yard, where I imagined a small plot would be dug.  The Merry Tiller sputtered and smoked and quit a few times, but then faithfully pulled him behind it as it had done for so many years before.  My dad inherited it from my grandpa, and neither of us could dare to figure out how old it really is.  An hour later I had a plot that was 16 feet by 56 feet wide, the entire width of our house.  My dad never does things small, whether it's fishing or gardening.  And it's one of the things I love the most about him.

One thing we are never short of in our yard is rocks, and as Grandpa Dave tilled we walked behind him to gather the big ones, which would later be added to our rock fire pit I had put together with all the rocks collected during excavation and throughout my landscaping projects.  Riley has been such a wonderful help during all of our projects, and he knows how much this means not only to me, but to his grandpa too.  I am so trying to instill in him the things that are important in life; hard work, patience, and respecting the earth and all it can provide for us.  He gets it already, and I am so proud of that.

A few weeks later, after the weeds had died back, my dad came back to till it all over one more time.  Because that's what you do. Then the marking of the rows commenced.  In our family you don't just throw seeds in willy nilly.  There are poles driven into the ground, and string, and tape measures. You need to leave enough room between the rows for walking and enough room for things to grow.

There is also this seed planting tool that has probably been around just as long as Merry Tiller. 

Can you see the letters associated with each seed?  You put your seeds in the metal circle under the red plastic, then dial up what you have in there, and it makes an opening in the wheel just big enough for your seeds to fall out of as you roll it along the row.

I was concerned that nothing would even come up, as we didn't put anything in the ground until June 27, and that's pretty late for us Northern Minnesota gardeners.  But two weeks later I got up in the morning, peeked through my bedroom curtains, and saw this.

Just as most things associated with my family, where there is a will, there is a way.  And with their help, I can always makes things happen that I never dreamed possible on my own.

There was basil.

And cabbage.

Tomatoes that had grown much more than they could have in the pots I bought them in.

Onions in yellow, white, and red, that Riley planted with his two growing hands.

And peas.

Tonight my parents came over for dinner, and soon after we finished my dad wanted to go check things out.  I had been telling him how much everything had been growing with all the rain and hot weather we have been having.  I think he might have been a little impressed, and hopefully a bit proud.  We had been having a discussion earlier in the evening about how people are raised differently, and I reminded him that we were raised to take care of ourselves, to be patient in all our endeavors, to love our kids, and to keep busy.  We've certainly been busy this season.

And taking this picture made it all completely worth the effort.

After picking the first crop of radishes I planted for my dad so he and Riley could enjoy them with a dab of butter (a delicacy my dad introduced him to a few months earlier), or as a radish sandwich, it was time for more watering, with my trusty boy manning the hose and the three of us watching his technique.

And it all keeps on growing.


Kristi Pohl said...

I was one who certainly had my doubts, but dang, if that hill isn't perfect for growing things!!! LOVE the story of the tiller, and the pictures of dad-so priceless. Can't wait to see it all in person!

Tracy said...

O.K. - this post made me cry. What a tremendous story. That garden is amazing, and here I was excited to be picking a few green beans from mine! Your family is a true inspiration to the rest of us.

Hope your garden is plentiful right on through fall.

Rachelle said...

What a wonderful post! This brings back memories of my own dad hauling his till over to dig our garden plot. He wanted to make it as huge as the whole backyard and it was tough to reign him in. Funny. I'm so happy you're now enjoying your own garden! Yes, a great lesson for kids about where food comes from and how much work it takes to grow it.

Valerie said...

Woman, as always you amaze me. BEAUTIFUL pics and story. I remember your dad's gardens on Lake and East. Such a blessing tohave him help you with the one you're growing on your own land! HUGZ!