Planting a garden this year left me damaged and scarred. This summer marked the first time I’ve ever grown a garden. Sure my parents and grandparents in Erickson always had a garden, but I’ve never really taken interest in growing my own food or doing the work involved in seeing a fall harvest come out of the ground.
That was until this year.
This year, Tracy, David, Liberty and I planted a small plot at Hummingbird Gardens — the largest garden in Brandon’s Community Garden Network at 26th Street and Maryland Avenue. According to organizers with Communities in Bloom, more than 200 gardeners planted this year.
You’ve likely seen all the stuff growing in the open field as you travel behind the Empire Cinema’s in front of Alternative Landscaping. If you’ve had the displeasure of seeing me working in this garden as you’ve driven by, you’ve been witness to a growing miracle. I am not a gardener. I do not have a green thumb, and while it was fun and tasty to grow your own food, it was a lot of work.
The most valuable thing I learned in my first experience planting a garden is respecting how much hard work goes into planting, maintaining and harvesting any type of food crop, from beans to lettuce. It’s not easy to have tasty food put on the table. Until now, I would plunk down cash at the grocery store to buy whatever veggies I thought might be good, and off I went. It’s so much more.
My wife Tracy was the captain of this "team green thumb". Growing up in a Ukrainian farming family where the average garden can feed a city the size of Dauphin, she was no stranger to how things should be done. We planted in spring, and watched as beans, cucumbers and corn came out of the ground before our very eyes.
Every time Tracy and I would go to the garden was like Christmas. WOW, look we have more tomatoes. WOW, look we have more beans. WOW, look we have more radishes. But WOW, this meant someone had to pick the bounty and weed the garden.
Our children were good for the first go-round. They picked and ate; ate and picked some more. It was fun to see stuff grow, but they quickly adopted the work ethic of their lazy father. It felt like it was much easier to just buy the stuff at the store. This left Tracy and I to do all the gardening.
Really this left Tracy to do the gardening:
"Don’t water over there."
"Those aren’t ready to pick yet".
"Tyler, why do you have to keep walking there?"
"Are you gonna help me or what?"
Ahh, the relaxation and fun of gardening. Nothing like growing your own organic food, while your children sit back and watch, playing on a smartphone. While your spouse rules over her bounty like the queen of all things green. My back hurts. I’m thirsty. Picking weeds sucks. There’s no fun or benefit from picking weeds. Why not just leave them there. Really, I can see the cucumbers and know the difference between cucumbers and weeds. I promise I won’t eat weeds. Let the weeds be. What was that dear? No, I’m picking weeds like you asked.
For years our parents tried to encourage us to grow a garden. We picked the year we had a teen and tween to listen to them and make the leap into the world of horticulture. I hope our kids are learning something from this experience, so they too can have kids sit while they sweat and toil over a little garden in the hot sun.
Horticulture? Horrorculture is more like it. Especially when it came time for harvest.
Last Saturday, as in a week ago today, we loaded up the pails, shovels, hoes and the baskets for the last of our stuff. We took off what was left of our summer of veggies and cleaned off the plants so organizers could till this fall in preparation for next year. That was when my summer of sweat got its "icing on the cake."
One last time as I sweated in the sun, kids watching, wife ordering, back getting more and more sore. I couldn’t take it anymore. I squatted to pull out some bean stalks when Riiiiiiiip.
I blew a hole in my favourite pair of cargo shorts.
And I’m not talking a little rip. I’m talking air conditioning for un-mentionable.
People were at the garden and to those who saw the show I apologize. I don’t think anyone was offended, but some found it rather humorous. There were many giggles. Thankfully, no finger pointing. The fact we were surrounded by cucumbers, carrots, zucchini and other long vegetables gave way to joke after joke after joke — even cherry tomatoes were mentioned.
Fact of the matter is, anytime someone rips a giant gash in their shorts for the world to see and the one-liner jabs start flying. You quickly realize that most vegetable names can be substituted for body parts.
Nevertheless I covered my (insert vegetable name) and promptly returned home, bluing all the way.
Thanks Hummingbird organizers for a fun and eventful growing season. I apologize for the wardrobe malfunction, and vegetable display. I hope you allow us back next year.
In the meantime I will work on some back exercises and patch the giant hole in my shorts. The hole in my ego is beyond repair.
JOKE THIS WEEK
Three old ladies are sitting their retirement home reminiscing about old times. The first old lady recalls shopping at the supermarket and demonstrates with her hands the length and girth of a cucumber she could buy for a nickel. The second old lady nods in agreement adding "onions were also much bigger" cupping her two hands together and putting two fingers up and saying. "I used to get two for a nickel"
"I can't hear a word you are saying" says the third old lady. "But I can certainly remember the man you’re talking about".
Max Robinson Parker
Yvonne Bertram Gibbons
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition September 21, 2012