TOO EARLY, TOO LATE, HELP
When I lived in Northern Quebec, the only
garden we ever grew was covered in stones. Some were pretty with copper pyrite
flakes. Never rounded like those I found later on the shores of large lakes,
but jagged as if the mining countryside I lived on was determined to protect
its territorial hold on the landscape.
Yes, it was said the only things you could
grow “up north” was rocks.
When our family moved to southern Ontario,
I could not believe how well everything grew. The farmers covered their fields with
tractors, thrusting forward over great sheaves of growth, especially corn and
hay, sights I had never seen before. Tomatoes, carrots, beets and asparagus
spread lusciously in backyard patches of black earth full of zing. There seemed
to be nary a rock to come between finger and seed.
“My turn to grow a garden!” I yelled to
friends who cheered me on.
I was determined to produce the best garden
there ever was. My son, Troy, ten years of age shared my eagerness. My wife, Esther,
born on a farm, aside Cape Spear in New Brunswick, smiled knowingly as I dug
fingers into the churned up earth. Such peace as I closed my eyes and absorbed
the humus scent, felt the black earth press under my fingernails and finally
awoke from this revelry as my son spoke up.
“Come on dad, I opened all the packages of
seed. Let’s put them in now. Okay?”
He was more like my wife, a no-nonsense
kind of person. ‘Let’s get the job done’ kind of guy. I was the dreamer, oh,
the scenery of the fruits of my first garden. I could imagine my wife smiling
from the window. She will be so pleased when her man stomps into the house
carrying an armload of potatoes.
Troy and I built up long mounds, which we
filled with seed. I wasn’t sure how many should be sprinkled in, but I felt the
more the merrier. My son suggested we follow the directions, but what does he
know? He’s only a kid. We quickly scrabbled in the dirt to complete our task,
since it began snowing.
Snowing in April, in Sarnia, Ontario?
Impossible, I thought. Somehow we managed to get our seeds under protection as
an assault of the white stuff covered our little garden, my first efforts. My
wife did advise it was much too early in the season.
When it was finally warm and proper
(according to my wise wife) two sons were now helping. This time we waited
until late June, and the weather more accommodating. Yes, I thought, there will
be a garden of plenty with our twelve rows, about six inches apart, giving us more
goodies to harvest.
I didn’t mind the weeds, which suddenly
appeared in great abundance, determined to overcome my first garden. My dear wife
said later, “Your rows are too close.”
“Next season I’ll do better,” I promised.
And when my children were a year older; my
daughter, Susan and both sons helped with earnest suggestions. They met with
neighbourhood children and cautioned them about raiding my garden-to-be. “Be
kind to our dad,” Walt asked his friends. “He tries so hard with his garden
Now I thought, I was prepared for any
weeds. My rows were less in number, because they were three feet apart, and
using my lawnmower would keep the weeds down. Fellow workers thought it
strange, when I regularly announced, “Got to go home and mow my garden.” It
brought forward more than a few chuckles.
Our family collectively had much more
success over the years. We finally grew a variety of crops, berries and
cucumbers, and carrots, and corn, and… I gratefully acknowledged my wife as CEO
of our garden-project.