Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Holding It Together with Gardening

I come from a long line of gardeners, so my summer childhood scrapbook is filled thick with the following snapshots:

  • sitting underneath my grandparents' car port snapping green beans.

  • digging potatoes

  • My Uncle Raymond dropping by our house sharing the bounty from his garden

  • zucchini, zucchini, zucchini, zucchini, and zucchini

  • rhubarb

  • snakes in the strawberry patches

  • eating a jalapeno in my Uncle Don's garden and sprinting toward the water spigot to attempt to cool the burn

  • standing in the garden with a salt shaker and eating tomatoes off the vine

  • riding in the back of a pickup as a it crosses the creek (pronounced "crick") on my way to my grandparents' garden (Once upon a time people rode in the beds of pickups)
With the exception of a few herbs I grow to use in my cooking, I don't keep a garden. I think a lot about what is lost because I don't garden, and it makes me sad. Lately my daughter has asked if we can plant a small garden. It makes me happy to think that this urge to garden might be in her DNA. Maybe she and I need to break ground on this project as a way to reconnect with those relatives from my past.

With these thoughts and memories pinballing in my head, I reflected on the following passage from Ted Kooser's wonderful book Local Wonders: Seasons in the Bohemian Alps:

According to the TV weathermen-all smiles at six this morning- today is to be one of the "top ten days of the year!" He was exclaiming his own prediction of good weather, of course, but most of us among his early morning viewers are hoping that this will be top ten day of the year in ways other than that. I for one am hoping that it will be among the top ten days for making a few pints of applesauce from our bruised and wormy windfalls and also among the top ten days for gluing together my late mother's cutting board, which during the past week split in half and by so doing opened a crack in my heart, into which a good deal of syrupy sentiment trickled.

Mother would never have paid "good money", as she would have said, for a gourmet cutting board, heavy and thick as a layer cake and cleverly fitted together from finely planed strips of chocolate-dark and sugar-light hardwoods. No, her cutting board was three short pieces of one-by-four pine, glued together into a surface about the size of a piece of typewriter paper. She probably bought it at a yard sale. On this crude table, which over the years turned roast beef brown from the oil of store brand cheese and the juice from whatever fruit was on sale, was inscribed her kitchen's history, scored into the surface by a dull paring knife with the rivets gone from one side of the handle. There are chapters on flaky pie dough, thick egg noodles, and round steak hammered to a pulp.

When she died by sister and I were dividing her few belongings, I kept mother's cutting board. At the time I didn't have a sentimental attachment to it, but I thought my wife and I might be able to make some use of it. I hold on to nearly everything that comes my way.

And we have used it, nearly every day. It is my generation's time to slice store brand cheddar on it and dice the sale carrots and core whatever poor apples might fall from our trees. And I am going to make applesauce today not so much because I like applesauce but because it would please Mother- and, for that matter, her mother and her mother's mother- to know I don't intend to let those miserable little windfalls go to waste.

So, on this top ten day, the first thing I am going to do is to carry the halves of my mother's cutting board down to my shop in the barn and glue them together. And then I'm going to clamp them to dry - clamp them with heavy iron pipe clamps, tightly, so tightly my fingers hurt twisting the handles, because there is so much I want to hold together.

I love the last sentence.

plow to the end of the row,



Ruth said...

yeah Ella, it makes me happy to hear that the gardening bug may continuing on in our family.Each spring as I push my spade into the ground and turn the dirt over, the sight and smell of the earth makes me feel as though my father is standing right beside me.

Johnny said...

"Those who labor in the earth are the chosen people of God, if he ever had a chosen people, whose breasts he has made his particular deposit for substantial and genuine virtue. It is the focus in which he keeps alive that sacred fire, which otherwise might escape from the face of the earth. Corruption of morals in the mass cultivator is a phenomenon of which no age nor nation has furnished an example"

Thomas Jefferson

Plant a garden, its the right thing to do.