Gardening · Miss Mary

A view from the patio

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Gardening is a passion.  You either love it or it’s a chore.

My love of gardening started when I was really young.  In each of our homes my husband and I have built perennial gardens and vegetable gardens.  Twice we’ve been showcased on the McHenry County Garden Walk.

As a teenager we lived on a rented farm.   My mom was single raising four children.  We had to grow a garden and “put up” all the fruits of the garden which would last us all year.  The first two weeks of August were unbearably hot in our kitchen as we used a boiling water bath for the canning with no air conditioning.  The cutting, peeling, sterilizing and eventual tightening of the jars or freezing of the blanched vegetables was a summer time ritual.

We planted the entire side yard which was probably 50 yards front to back and 40 feet wide.  We borrowed a tiller from a friend to work the garden.  The spring was laborious.   Corn, beans, tomatoes, lettuce, carrots, peas, cucumbers, zucchini,…and more.

I remember our neighbor who was already an organic farmer but back then we didn’t call it organic, we just thought he was different.  My mother never learned how or took the time to understand how he gardened.   He had lush vegetables while ours struggled in the heat.

We had an old chicken coop with no chickens, just storage.  There was a double sided barn that a farmer in the area stored his baler.   The baler was home to Mrs. Beasley, our calico cat, and her minions of kittens.  We built a garbage storage area with white fencing and a school bell attached to the top.  That bell was to bring us all home.  Everyone knew the bell.   The raccoons loved the open garbage area and were experts at opening the lids to the cans almost every night.

There was a long white farm fence that was about 60 feet long.  Alongside of the fence grew these inviting pink and yellow holly hocks.  We didn’t think about perennial gardens at all.   It wasn’t until I was a young adult that I saw my first ever perennial garden and fell deeply madly in love with every inch of it.

Did hard labor as children damage us?  On the contrary, it made us work harder, do more with less, wish for a better life (hence college education), dream constantly of something different, taught us patience and perseverance but also gave us a place to remember.   I can smell my mom’s pies now.

I still dream.  You’ll see a small planter in the slide show that is our “fairy” garden for the kids in the neighborhood.  My five year old neighbor collects shiney stones that will refect the moonlight for the fairies to travel at night.  You have to dream.  You have to think of a better life.

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