74: Grumbling in the Garden

74: Grumbling in the Garden

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Thanks to My Mom

Grumbling in the Garden

Many things grow in the garden that were never sown there.

~Thomas Fuller

I hated every minute of it. Digging in the smelly dirt in spring, planting the tiny seeds in meticulous rows, weeding the plants while sweat poured down my face. Picking, canning and freezing vegetables, only to find them on your plate, staring at you on a bleak winter day.

I wanted to spend the summer with my friends—lying in my back yard tanning and listening to the radio with a cool glass of iced tea. But instead I spent every Saturday and my summer vacations working in my mom’s large vegetable garden.

My parents both grew up on farms before moving to town so they wanted to keep gardening. They used a large plot of land at my grandparents’ house to grow enough food to feed our family and fill the freezer for winter. My mom was determined that I would learn how to plant and harvest a proper garden.

“Gardening is such a waste of time!” I would complain. “Why bother spending months working on planting peas and beans when you can just buy a bag of frozen vegetables for $1.99 at the grocery store?”

“Just keep picking,” my mom would say, smiling and handing me another basket to fill with beans.

I grew up and left home, happy to leave that old vegetable garden behind.

But a few years later, living in a little house with my new husband, I looked out the back window and saw a big sunny spot. “That might be a good place for a vegetable garden,” I thought, surprising even myself.

Not much came out of that garden that year but I could hear Mom’s voice in my head—“Put the peas in rows, the lettuce in bunches. Leave room between the tomatoes and cucumbers so they can spread. Pulling weeds right after it rains is easier.”

Over the years, with each new house I’ve moved to, the first thing I’ve looked for is room for a garden in the back yard. My vegetable garden has become my happy place. There is nothing like standing barefoot in the dirt, excitedly seeing the first tiny green sprouts. Or watching the tiny flowers bud into peas, beans and cucumbers. And especially the taste of that first ripe tomato, a sweet carrot still sprinkled with dirt, or an ear of fresh corn, raw off the stalk.

As a teenager I would groan, sitting down to a table full of garden fresh vegetables, but now I exclaim to my own three teens, “Look at all this food—you will never eat something so good as fresh picked from your own back yard!”

My mom now chuckles at my gardening passion, remembering a daughter who would stomp angrily through the dirt, complaining her mother was ruining her summer.

Now a third of my small back yard is a vegetable garden, and every year it grows just a bit bigger.

When my son Simon was five, his eyes grew wide as he helped me pick peas and beans one morning. “Wow Mom, we have so much FREE food!”

So, thanks, Mom, for making me learn what I thought I would never need to know. For knowing more than I did, just how much I would love digging in the dirt. Thank you for teaching me when I was unteachable—for somehow sparking an interest that would lead to a lifetime joy.

~Lori Zenker

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