I hear this time and time again, that folks just have gardening, especially growing food for the table, "in their blood". They learned at a mother or grandmother or grandfather's knee, getting first hand tutelage in the art of coaxing food out of soil.
And every single time I hear or read of this, I experience pangs of grand/parent garden envy.
I never knew any of my grandparents. Long stories there, but bottom line is both my parents were older than average to begin with, one was estranged from their extended family, and I simply never had any of those doted upon moments where I was shown how to grow anything in a grandparent's garden.
My Dad enjoyed growing tomatoes. But he wasn't an experienced gardener. He grew tomatoes for love all right, but not love of tomatoes.
My father actually couldn't stand eating tomatoes. He developed an aversion to them (or so he said) while serving in the military in the Canal Zone during WWII. To hear him tell it, they all but force fed the troops tomatoes to prevent scurvy and he had to eat so many tomatoes during the war that he lost his appreciation for their flavor forever.
My Mom on the other hand, love love loved eating home grown tomatoes. She enjoyed them sliced with salt and pepper, no further embellishment required.
As much as she liked to eat them however, my Mother would not be cajoled, convinced or coerced into helping work the dirt to produce any. My Mom simply refused to get soil under her fingernails. Period.It was as if she somehow internalized the scene from her favorite movie "Gone With The Wind" where Scarlett, after scrabbling in the dirt for a turnip, was it? states "As God is my witness, as God is my witness they're not going to lick me. I'm going to live through this and when it's all over, I'll never be hungry again. No, nor any of my folk. If I have to lie, steal, cheat or kill. As God is my witness, I'll never be hungry again.".
Only with my Mom you would sub in the words "and when it's all over," (it being the Depression), "I'll never work in a garden again. No, nor any of my folk.".
Although that is taking it a bit far. My Mom was OK with my Dad growing her tomatoes.She was just not one of those Earth Mommies out teaching my brother and I about the Great Circle of Life by growing carrots or beans or whatever.
So when it comes to growing food now for Hub and myself, I still have many, many lessons to learn.Some things I have learned in the past couple of months include that in a serious drought, if you do not supplementally water your radishes a lot more than I did, they may come out of the ground ropey and tough.
Nope, waiting to harvest a head of broccoli too long leads to a striking illustration of why they call them "florets" in the first place. To wit...
I was originally disgusted with myself, feeling that I had somehow failed a test and wasted an opportunity. Then I took a closer look.Those broccolli flowers were absolutely crawling with bees. Happy busy bees, apparently grateful to have something in full bloom in this fairly stark January between spells of cold and of dry.
Bees, as if you didn't already know this, are in a lot of trouble, and scientists still aren't sure what the causes are. Colony collapse disorder, their fancy term for the mysterious die off of thousands of bees, still poses a "why?" that we cannot answer.
In light of that, I feel a lot better about providing our local bees with some winter blooms to visit. Without the bees my chances of growing anything range from slim to none. And, turns out there is plenty of broccolli to go around. So while all my broccolli plants won't be feeding the Hub and me directly, I am happy to donate their pollen to the cause of sustaining my neighborhood bees.
I even figure from now on, to try to remember to put in a couple of extra broccolli plants so my bees can have some bright yellow flowers to visit when everything else has pretty much packed it in for the winter.
Odds are, I am not your Mom or your GrandMom. Nonetheless I am happy to share this lesson, learned at Mother Nature's knee if you will, about how plants do what they do whether you are ready or not, which usually includes feeding somebody, some way.