When I was a kid, my parents had a garden. But before you envision a Hidden Valley commercial, let me qualify that first statement. My parents did not use pesticides, but they certainly used a lot of manure. Think flies and plenty of cutworms. That being said, you will understand why as a child, I had never looked forward to having a garden of my own. That is, until I met my husband.
Randy’s parents owned a ranch in Oklahoma. Every year, he and his 5,ooo brothers and sisters would put in a huge garden. Okay, maybe 5,000 is an overstatement, but the resultant garden produce would have fed a crowd twice that size. They’d plant enough strawberries to feed everyone, including Aunt Viola and Uncle Hershel. And even though I’d work with them in the garden picking berries, I never did find out who Aunt Viola and Uncle Hershel were. Randy was kind of hazy about that as well. I never met them, but I picked plenty of berries for them.
Randy loved going out to the garden before dinner was ready and picking fresh produce to add to the table. He would take me out on those rambles, pulling fat onions from the earth, plucking warm tomatoes from the vine. He would bring a kitchen knife – and in this, he differed from his brothers. I’d watched his brothers on many occasions scrape a scab off of their arm with their penknife, wipe the blade on their shirt, then cut up some candy and offer me a piece. Needless to say, I never accepted. But back to the blog – Randy would bring out a clean paring knife, a salt shaker, and cut open a ripe tomato as soon as he’d plucked it. He’d salt it and offer me the first bite from the tip of the knife. I had never tasted a tomato so good.
Twelve years ago, Randy and I moved into the house we live in now. The back yard is pleasantly sized, but only a small strip is open to the sunshine. Just big enough to plant a tiny garden. I started a few years ago with three tomato plants. After a long bout of watering, fertilizing, and plenty of tlc, I got exactly one tomato. It grew to the size of a walnut, split, fell off, and it was carried away by squirrels.
I’d tried various projects over the next few years, but was methodically thwarted by moles, cutworms, birds, Japanese Beetles, and, of course, squirrels. I guess the locusts couldn’t make it as far as Arkansas.
Giving up on the more tender plants, we decided to plant fruit trees. We chose a self pollinating cherry tree know to be resistant to insects and repulsive to birds, and two apple trees, a Golden Delicious, and an Ozark Black. I hoped for success, especially with the Ozark Black, a tree that has been known to grow wild in Arkansas. I imagine it propigates much like this: A bird eats a seed, poops, and the next year you have apples.
The first year, our cherry tree produced 5 cherries. They were eaten by birds while they were still green. Our apple trees didn’t produce anything, having had all their blooms frozen off by a late frost.
The next year, the same thing happened except the cherry tree didn’t produce at all and the apple blossoms were beaten off by hailstones.
This summer, we finally got an apple. Never mind that the birds ate the cherries from the trees, leaving the bare pits stuck to the stems, we GOT AN APPLE!
We were proud of that apple.
We even got some mulberries from the old mulberry tree that year. We were the Waltons, the Ingalls, and the Garden of Eden all in one. Our land was suddenly fertile.
Ahh… the bounty… Even our butterfly bush flowered . . . too late for the butterflies, but no one cared.
So every day, we would go out and visit our apple, counting the moments until it ripened, talking to it, handling it, hoping to leave our scent on it so the squirrels would LEAVE IT ALONE . . .
Then, in November, it was time to pick it. Like proud parents at their kid’s graduation, we took our camera out to record the event.
It didn’t matter. We took it into the house and tried it out in various settings.
It was time to cut it open and taste it.
I sliced it up . . . our apple from the apple tree we’d spent money on, buying first the tree itself, then lavishing the tree and the apple with fertilizer, pesticides, and countless hours of care. I sliced it up and made a tart.
Wait . . . On second thought, maybe I should have just called this post ‘The $50 Tart’. . .
Do you like growing your own food? Or have you even bothered since the advent of shopping in bulk? Remember, to leave a comment click on the ‘Comments’ tag at the end of this blog, and don’t forget to check out the latest Photoblog on the right. Just put your cursor over the picture to read the caption, or click on one if you want to leave your comment.