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June 9, 2013

Little garden a rite of spring

I’m as old as dirt, but I’m still able to bend over and dig in it.

These days, there’s likely to be dirt under the nails on my green thumbs. I can thank my late mother for that. Growing up, we always had large gardens. You name it, Alta Grace grew it. She always allotted a small plot for me. I was given seeds and plants and allowed to care for my little corner. 

I always wanted to dig in the dirt and sew my seeds on the first warm day in May. She would shake her finger and warn me to cease and desist until June 1, when the last frost should be over. She allowed me to put the peas in before that, and I was appeased.

There were always little plants started earlier inside the house and transplanted into her makeshift greenhouses, constructed from old glass windows and who knows what all? Gardening was for me and my mom an important rite of spring. 

She canned everything she could. Up until recently, I still had the old copper canning receptacle under the bench in my garage. She called it a boiler washtub. It had a top and wooden handles. I watched her fill the Mason jars and put them into the water as it heated on the old kerosene stove. I ended up donating the tub to the Babbie Rural and Farm Learning Museum on the River Road in Peru. There were many pleasant memories attached to it. I even recall her using it to boil water for washing clothes when it wasn’t canning season.

I’ve had large and small gardens over the years, depending on available space and inclination. One year, my plantings took over the entire side lawn, much to Kaye’s consternation — especially when a friend backed his pickup truck and dumped a large load of horse manure onto the grass. We had good crops that year and needed them for our burgeoning family.

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