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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Garden (09/07/06)

TITLE: Mother's Garden
By Ann Hamilton


Every spring the ground was plowed and prepared for the garden. Along, it would produce an abundance of vegetables. The first planting were English peas, onions, and turnip greens. They were also the first to be harvested and taken to the kitchen. There they were washed, cut, shelled, and cooked. These almost made a meal unto themselves. Mama added the final touch by baking a large black iron skillet full of cornbread. This bread was made from corn meal, eggs hatched by our chickens, and lard made from last year’s hog killing. The meal was ground at the gristmill a mile from our home. When this job was finished, we put the meal, along with our supplies, into the wagon we came in, and headed home.
After I was grown, I found out that I was the only member of the family who liked green peas. Knowing this made me realize how special I was to my family.
After the first planting came the sowing of seeds from okra, cantaloupe, radishes, lettuce, green beans, and corn. Holes were dug for tomato plants, and potatoes. The tomato plants were planted from the roots of small vines, and potatoes were sliced into large pieces, which were placed in the holes. When the sowing was finished, dirt was loosely placed upon the seeds, and upon and around the potatoes and tomatoes. The next step was to fertilize and water the entire garden. In those days, the only watering system available to us was a well and a bucket in which to carry the water drawn from the well.
We ate from the fresh vegetables throughout the spring and into the summer when we began to prepare them to be placed into fruit jars and canned in a large pressure cooker. This was one of the greatest inventions of the time. The government even provided a county agent to come out and teach us how to use it. Prior to this invention, canning was a risky business as there was no way to stop the threat of Botulism. This was the cause of hundreds of illnesses and some deaths.
I will never forget how I hated stringing beans. It was not so much the job but the tubs and tubs of beans staring me in the face. To escape this fate, I dreamed of playing with my friends, and slipping away to the backfield where I saw myself as the mistress of my own garden and house. I remember that I also pretended I was the daughter of a plantation owner who never had to string beans or do anything but look beautiful. All that was necessary to burst this bubble was for me to look down at my green stained hands and my blackened nails.
Today, southern cooked vegetables, homemade cornbread, and fresh buttermilk are my favorite foods. Because they are from a “store-bought” can, they are not nearly as good.
Long ago, I left the farm and ceased to plant gardens. Too much, ‘busyness has prevented me from doing so. Sometimes, I plant a tomato vine or two…usually in a large container. Afterwards, like my flower garden, I quit feeding them and they dry up and die. However, my memories of the golden garden days are always enough to whet my taste as well as remind me of my love for the hands that labored to feed our extended family of seven adults and four children.
As I finish writing these thoughts, a new one comes to mind…the memory of the last garden my father and I planted together. It was the year before he died at the young age of 51. We were finishing the planting by “putting out” tomato plants. He was at the end of one row and I at the other. In my late 20’s I was “the expert” of everything. I told him he was packing the dirt around the tomatoes to firmly…that it needed to be loose. I think this was the only garden I ever saw him plant. With the help of the children, this was always my mother and grandmother’s job. In the days and weeks to come we both claimed credit for the half of the row where the tomatoes grew large and firm. Neither of us wanted to admit to planting the tomato plants, which died without a start!

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This article has been read 478 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Rhonda Clark09/17/06
The memories were absolutely wonderful. Being a southern girl of a working familiy, my own garden memories were stirred by this piece.

The flow of this piece was off. It seemed disjointed and it was difficult to follow. The thoughts were a little too random. A little reorganizaion is all that is needed.

Overall, I like the thoughts. Thanks for bringing up my own memories. :)