There’s been some big, big news around the Woods home this spring.
No, we didn’t win the lottery or inherit a fortune, and we don’t have anymore grandkids on the way. Or maybe we do but have yet to receive the word from our three children and their spouses. We did celebrate our 35th wedding anniversary back on April 2, but that’s kind of old news now.
No, quite simply, we planted a garden, and not just any garden. In fact, it’s the biggest one I’ve ever put out. Since my wife grew up on a farm, I know she’s had to spend time in a garden that’s much bigger.
When I was young and still living in the home I grew up in on the west side of Indianapolis, I planted a garden, but it was never this big. I did so back then with the help of my grandfather. He was a retired machinist but knew a thing or two about growing vegetables because he grew up on a farm and would help my uncle grow vegetables to sell at a roadside stand.
For what it’s worth — not much, I got my green thumb from him and my other grandfather who shared-crop tobacco. I still remember my dad and the rest of us heading down to the Scottsville, Kentucky, area on weekends in the 1960s to help harvest the tobacco. My dad and his brothers did the dangerous work of cutting the stalks. My contribution was carrying the stakes they used to hang the tobacco up to cure in the barn. I’m sure I was a big help.
Over the 30-plus years I’ve lived in my present home, I’ve always managed to grow a few tomatoes, zucchinis, jalapenos, cucumbers and green peppers — or mangos as my dad referred to them. I don’t know how many times my brother and I reminded him that mangos are a tropical fruit, but it didn’t stop him from calling them mangos.
I would go out, shovel up a space of about 40 square feet and plant my “garden.”
After taking our above-ground pool out this past year, my wife and I decided to turn about 400 square feet of that space into a garden. I’m not bragging on the size of my garden because I have seen a lot of gardens that are much, much bigger.
I had forgotten how much work gardens can be and tough it is to get anything to grow, especially when you have to ward off rabbits, cats and a groundhog or two.
My youngest son also sent me a meme to remind me of how much effort it takes to produce homegrown produce.
Here’s what it said: After six weeks, $140 in supplies and daily watering, we’re three to four weeks away from enjoying a single 25-cent vegetable from our garden.
While we don’t have $140 in supplies yet, we also won’t have a single vegetable for some time to come. And yes, despite inflation, a can of almost any type of vegetable can still be purchased rarely cheaply at Aldi.
My wife countered that with this thought: “And countless hours of work, but those fresh maters are going to taste good.”
I like Robin Wall Kimmerer’s take on the subject.
In her book “Braiding Sweetgrass,” Kimmerer embraces the notion that plants and animals are our oldest teachers. It’s subtitled “Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants.” That pretty much says it all.
A botanist and member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, Kimmerer talks about how other living beings, including vegetables, strawberries, salamanders, algae and sweetgrass, offer us gifts and lessons even if we have forgotten how to hear their voices.
She contends that only when we can hear the languages of other beings will we be capable of understanding the generosity of the earth and learn to give our own gifts in return.
The book, which is a great read, has lessons for everyone. One of my favorite lessons was to love your garden, and if you do, it will love you back.
Sometimes, when I’m hoeing the weeds around plants on a 90-degree day or getting up early to water them, I’m not feeling a lot of love.
I’ll likely change my tune, however, when we get that first mater.
Aubrey Woods is editor of The Tribune. Send comments to [email protected].