Thursday, April 9, 2015


What happens when you don’t have any idea what you’re going to write about?
Some folks just start typing and see what develops.

Some ask their friends and family for suggestions for a topic to write about.
Others look up things on the Internet, browse through a book of quotations, look for words of wisdom in quotes by famous people . . . .

Today I’m not very inspired by what I see in my neighborhood, or know is coming up on my calendar. I mean, I’m having green grass, bloomin’ flowers, and singing birds. Lots of folks are having the same. Tomorrow I have an appointment for my semi-annual tooth cleaning. Are you interested in hearing about that? No, me either.
So, let’s think about something current and nice to contemplate—gardens and gardening. Here are some pithy thoughts to stir your brain:

If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.
Marcus Tullius Cicero
[Can’t argue with that one.]

 A garden requires patient labor and attention. Plants do not grow merely to satisfy ambitions or to fulfill good intentions. They thrive because someone expended effort on them.
Liberty Hyde Bailey
[Hmm, effort. Yes, indeed.]

We must cultivate our own garden. When man was put in the garden of Eden he was put there so that he should work, which proves that man was not born to rest.
[Yeah, but sometimes I need to rest, a lot. Sorry, Voltaire.]

 I don't like formal gardens. I like wild nature. It's just the wilderness instinct in me, I guess.
Walt Disney
[Wilderness is fine, but there better not be any snakes and big bears.]

 The best place to find God is in a garden. You can dig for him there.
George Bernard Shaw
[Good one, George.]

 Everything that slows us down and forces patience, everything that sets us back into the slow circles of nature, is a help. Gardening is an instrument of grace.
May Sarton
[Maybe I better rethink this gardening thing.]

 Help us to be ever faithful gardeners of the spirit, who know that without darkness nothing comes to birth, and without light nothing flowers.
May Sarton
[Ah, gardening as metaphor—now I can get into that.]

When I googled “gardening” I discovered mostly info about flower gardens and what I call English gardens—not a kitchen garden that feeds the manor but cultivated and high-maintenance beauties.

Pole beans make hiding places by August.
Then I thought about gardens in my life, and I time-traveled back to childhood—Grandpa Jenkins was the first gardener I remember. When we went to visit him and Grandma at the edge of their little town, there beside the house was a HUGE garden—what I’d call a couple of acres now that I know what that looks like—where Grandpa tilled, planted, cultivated, and harvested every kind of vegetable. I remember especially the tee-pees he made to encourage the beans to vine up. Those made wonderful hiding places in summer if I wanted to get away from my irritating (male) cousins.
We kids often pulled and ate radishes and carrots right out in the garden. Dirt? Well, yeah, there was dirt on them; they grew in the dirt. We wiped it off on our slacks or on the grass, and chomped away.

By August there was always something to can. My mother and her sisters and sisters-in-law came to help Grandma “put up” pints and quarts of beautiful food. Some of the jars went home with the helpers, some stayed at Grandma and Grandpa’s house. My job was washing the jars, because my hands were smaller than those of my mom and aunts. (And also less swollen because I was too young to have arthritis, a family hand-me-down.)
My own adult experiences with gardening have no romance about them, not even in memory—I recall back-breaking work, sweat, mosquitoes (try picking cucumbers at dawn to take to the local pickle factory), more sweat during canning. But for me, it was an eye-opener: my parents and grandparents went to a lot of trouble and toil to provide meals for their tables. Nothing like an aching back and some itchy mosquito bites to drive home a lesson about how food gets to the mouths of our children.

At my time in life, firmly established in retirement, I enjoy the produce grown by others: my daughter and son who are the gardeners in the family; folks who offer their wares at the Farmer’s Market; neighbors and friends with surplus tomatoes/squash/cucumbers on their half-dozen plants that all produced at the same time.
When I miss the camaraderie of the kitchen at harvest time, I go to my daughter’s in Ohio and cut up, slice, or clean whatever’s going; wash dishes, and jars and lids and rings; stir a pot of something that needs to cook a little before being canned (jelly and pasta sauce); rest my weary back and legs for a while and eat a quick lunch; then back to the jar-filling before I head home. Come winter, I’ll spread jam on toast and utter an “ummmm.” And when I can’t think of anything to cook, there’s a jar of pasta sauce on the pantry shelf waiting for my gluten-free pasta to join it for a filling dish. Tomato juice? V-4 juice? Just right for soup. Get out the slow cooker and start putting things in.

Nowadays I’m more of an appreciator than a gardener. But I celebrate and salute all those who really dig gardening. J



  1. I'm with you on the appreciating part. What's in V-4 juice?

  2. Tomatoes, carrots, celery, onions. A food processor makes quick work of the last three, and a good strainer wipes out the seeds of the tomatoes. Good stuff!