Friday, September 08, 2006
This spring, we started some flower seeds inside. Evan helped us pick them out and plant them. I was especially hopeful that the sunflower seeds would allow us to turn our backyard into a field of beautiful, bright, tall yellow flowers. Unfortunately, our sunflower plants got real long and gangly and promptly passed away after we planted them outside.

Some of the other seeds did very well, though. They were Balsam flowers -- something I had never heard of before. WalMart had seeds for them though. We planted them beneath our bathroom window. Not that being beneath the bathroom window necessarily had anything to do with it, but they did extremely well and delighted us with beautiful blooms almost all summer long.

Where we planted them, you could see them from our family room window. Evan really enjoyed checking on them each day, either from outside or by looking out the window.

When I was growing up, pretty much everyone raised a garden in the summer. It was just sort of the thing to do. Well, fact is, we all did it because we couldn't afford to eat if we didn't raise some of our own food. It was just something you had to do. Kim, the "well to do" kid in my class, probably didn't keep a garden at her house but the rest of us sure did.

I grew up in a very small town of about 300 people -- LaFayette, Ohio. We lived in a small house in town there but we had a very large backyard, about a third of which was devoted to the garden. Mom always planted flowers in the first couple of rows and then came peas, beans, carrots, beets, radishes, cabbages, and peppers, followed by potatoes, tomatoes, different kinds of squash and, finally, corn. I never quite understood why things always had to be in that order but now it makes sense. They planted the taller things furthest away from the house so that they would not hide the rest of the garden from view.

Mom and dad kept a meticulous garden. My sister and I helped with the planting and weeding and the occasional attempt at digging a hole to China. I remember one summer when we tried to milk feed pumpkins. We'd read about it somewhere -- perhaps in the Little House books. I think that about all the milk did was attract ants. It certainly didn't create the huge pumpkins we dreamed of.

We had a neighbor who **gasp** actually set little bowls of beer **double gasp** out in her garden to attract and kill slugs. (Apparently slugs cannot handle their alcohol.) I used to sneak over and take sips of it. (Just kidding -- honest!)

When I was eleven, we moved to a different town. It was a much larger city but we lived on the edge of it and had a couple of acres that were partially wooded and backed up against a creek. We tried planting a garden there but, between the shade from the trees, some particularly vigorous weeds, and all of the critters that kept breaking into the garden, mom and dad eventually gave up on the garden there after a few years.

I think our family lost something when we quit gardening. Now, the timing of the garden's demise did coincide with my sister and I getting old enough to where we were not home so much anymore but were instead out with friends, various activities, or work. But, still, it seemed like not gardening any longer was a catalyst. We spent less time together. We didn't get to eat homegrown food. I don't know why but we even seemed to argue more. I think the garden was a common bond and, without it, relationships suffered.

My grandparents kept a big garden, too, while I was growing up. In fact, they had two gardens -- one at the house in LaFayette that they lived in and one at the farm outside of town that they co-owned with my great uncle.

Even after we moved away, we still went back to visit them often and, in the summer, those visits often included helping in their garden. I think it was the summer between seventh and eighth grdaes for me that I was helping them in their garden when my voice cracked. That is only one of two times that I ever remember my voice cracking but, of course, grandma had to say something like "Doyt (that was my grandpa's name), sounds like Todd's going to be a bass soon." You can bet I was loving every minute of that. (Ha!) Well, that whole bass voice thing never really came to pass. In fact, aside from those two times I remember my voice cracking, I am not even sure my voice ever changed. But anyway ...

Often, when we would go visit grandma and grandpa in the early summer, we would go to the local U-Pik-Strawberries place (and these kids today with all their IM'ing think they were the first to abbreviate things!) where we'd pick box after box of strawberries to be brought home and used for shortcake as well as for making and canning strawberry jam.

I have fond memories of gardening. I think that, as a society, we are missing out on something by not having gardens and the family activities that revolved around them. It was a bonding time and there was also something incredibly spiritual to, as a family, watch new life spring forth each year after a cold Ohio winter.

Back when we lived in LaFayette, my parents allowed me to plant a couple of corn stalks next to our backdoor each year. Yes, right next to the back door. I would watch after them and water them all summer. The ears of corn they would bear would always be the best corn of the season, at least to my mind.

Nowadays, I don't think any of us would ever dream of growing stalks of corn next to our back doors. I know my parents wouldn't. But these were the 60s and early 70s, well before the consumerism and "keeping up with the Joneses" attitudes of the 80s and 90s caused us to all strive for perfect homes and perfect yards. Back then, we didn't care if the yard and shrubbery were a little ragged. If you looked at my house today, you'd realize that I have carried that quality through to 2006. Not sure our neighbors, with their meticulously manicured lawns, appreciate it though.

Next year, I think I will show Evan how to plant corn -- right next to our back door. Maybe even the front door. You wait and see. There's something good about that.

  posted at 10:25 PM  


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Todd M


An ordinary guy. A wife I love very much. A great son. Wonderful friends. A metal roofing business and a sales training business. A loving church family. A few trade associations. A Christian school. And a four-pound poodle. Just trying to follow God and see where He leads.

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