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From the Publisher's Desk – Gardening seems to grow on me (May 13, 2015 issue)

As a small child I knew how to spread a little dirt. I’m not talking about gossip but gardening. I grew up with responsibilities and one of them was helping in the family garden. We didn’t have a large scale operation to sell to the public but it seemed like a massive amount to a small boy who stood shorter than the hoe he was using. Mom and I worked the garden with my grandparents and my uncle, aunt and cousin, who all lived on the Spivey mountain farm.
There was about an acre of corn, an acre of potatoes and an acre of everything else. Well, at least that’s how I remember it. One thing those fields grew well was rocks. They were everywhere and for each one we got out, it seemed like two would come back in its place.
There was evidence that my ancestors before me had fought the same battle. There were about four large piles located to the sides of the fields. Each pile was about the size of two vehicles parked side by side. Some of those rocks were large and would have been a daunting task for work horse to drag out of the usable space in the field.
Come harvest time, it was all worth the effort and a good example for me to see my efforts pay off. I’ve never been a big fan of green beans but I sure love potatoes fixed any way imaginable. What potatoes were left over from one season would be the seeds to start the next year’s crop. Beans would be shelled out and dried to use the next year as well.
Don’t ask me what variety the beans were. They weren’t selected from a seed stand at the garden shop. I always knew them by the names of the person who grew them previously and had passed them on to us. The seeds were shared among families in the community. We had the Nora, Lucy, Irene and Kyle type beans, to name a few.
Everything got used in some form or fashion. If it didn’t reach the table, it went into the freezer or got canned or dried. Almost every meal consisted of the basic staples of corn, beans and potatoes. Sunday lunches might require a double amount due to the family coming to my grandparents’ home after church.
After both grandparents passed away, mom and I kept downsizing the garden until it finally became too much to take on altogether. I breathed a sigh of relief and gladly walked away from it. Somehow I couldn’t get it out of my system and, after a few years of rest, decided it was time to garden again.
Gardening took on a whole new meaning to me at that point in life. I was no longer required to garden but chose to do so. I also found a plot closer to the house rather than out in a nearby field.
My delight was looking in garden shops and studying every seed catalog I received in the mail to find the latest, greatest, tastiest variety out there. I ordered a small canopy hot house, plant labels, tomato protective growers and a pole bean cage.
After moving to town a few years ago, I gave up gardening other than a few tomato plants stuck in shrubbery beds. A year or so after that, I convinced my mom to sell the mountain property and move to town with me. She was getting too old to climb around that rocky hillside and I didn’t want to grow old tossing the same rocks from one location to another.
With mom’s move came about 100 jars of various canned items and enough frozen items to fill up two refrigerators and two upright freezers. Still, one can never have enough fresh vegetables.
I recently read in this newspaper where First Christian Church, right here in Erwin, was offering a community garden space on the grounds behind the church. I emailed pastor Todd Edmondson and told him I would love to have a space. This past Saturday was the first day we could come out, pick our plot and start planting. I spent Friday night running here and there to select plants, buy fertilize and fertilize enriched potting soil.
We got there early Saturday morning and met Seth Jones and his sister Amy. I think Seth had already put much time into the garden on behalf of everyone else. It was plowed, smoothed and the plots laid out with stakes to indicate each space. Someone had also built a stand and placed a rain barrel at a nearby building. The guttering spout came right down to the barrel and a nozzle at the lower end could be turned to catch the water.
We got a 30 feet by 15 feet space. Soon pastor Todd, friends Ralph and Gail Hood and some others were there. It was a good chance to see each other’s plants and varieties.
It was a great feeling to be back in a garden, looking at the endless possibilities that Mother Earth has to offer. How amazing that it has served the needs of so many for so long and continues to give and give.
After getting out a few things Saturday and battling the heat with no sunblock, I retreated to the cool air of home. Plus, it also gave time to do a little more plant shopping. Monday morning I was back in the garden before coming to work. The rows are now full of potatoes, squash, cucumbers, beans, peas, zucchini, peppers, tomatoes, tomatoes and tomatoes.
Something tells me I could have bought vegetables at a farmers’ market during the summer and come out cheaper. However, something instilled deeply inside me from childhood just had to have space to grow.