Monday, March 28, 2011

Experience....or just Old?

It occurred to me the other day that between us, we have over 100 years of life experience. At first I thought that sounded rather impressive, then I realized…it just made us sound OLD!

Truthfully, we have just over 80 years of actually growing things between us. Tom tried gardening even when he was a country guy trapped in suburbia. I don’t think he realized he was even in suburbia, back then there were still cows in downtown Fairfax. (honest!)

It wasn’t until he moved to Warrenton that he really began to garden, although the “Brussels Sprout Incident of 1982” could have ended that. He really doesn’t like to talk about it. It was a horrible experience, and could have ended his gardening career.

Tom and his sister rented this little farmhouse just outside of town. It was a cute little homestead carved out of the woods back behind a cattle farm. There was room for a garden, and Tom decided to plant some Brussels sprouts, along with some other things. He really likes Brussels sprouts. Seems cows do, too! Just about the time the sprouts were ready, the cows broke through the fence and ate the plants. ALL the plants! Thankfully, that didn’t turn Tom against gardening….or cows!

Although, it must have been “déjà vu all over again” for him when, years later, our own cow got out in the night and mowed down 150 broccoli plants. It was not fun to attempt to explain to the vet who came out to treat her massive stomachache. He asked what she ate to get into such a state…you should have seen his face when we told him! The vet office had probably wondered about us prior to this event. There is no doubt in my mind that he went back to the office and put a big WEIRD on our file!

I have been planting seeds since I was about 3 years old.
My mother used to get us a “jumble pack” for a penny when she got her garden seeds. The “jumble pack” was essentially the floor sweepings from the seed company. You never knew what would be in the packet. I remember sorting out the seeds and trying to discover what they were prior to planting. I learned a lot from my mother’s one cent investment. When our girls were small, I wanted to re-create the experience. Imagine my shock when I found the jumble pack was then 25cents!

Tom and I have almost always had a garden. When we were first married, and living in a townhouse, our neighbor gave us this gorgeous tomato she grew in her backyard. That was one of the first indications that we just couldn’t bear living in town. We both knew we wanted space for a garden again. I saved some seeds from that tomato and we couldn’t wait to move and have room for our own garden.

The first garden seems SO funny now. It was very tiny, edged with cedar logs from the property. It produced quite well, despite the ongoing battle with the rabbits for the bounty.

Throughout the past 27 years, we have had a variety of gardens and garden styles. The one constant….the garden is always getting bigger! Presently we utilize a bed system, in order to control erosion on our incredibly hilly terrain.
We do have two large garden plots where we grow things needing a lot of room: corn, potatoes, winter squash, sweet potatoes, and the like.

Different crops, different locations, different approaches…it is a study in logistics, climate and plant culture. There is always something new to learn.

Growing for winter sales in unheated hoophouses is our current challenge. Through trial and error, reading books and articles on the subject, and a lot of work, we are becoming more efficient and effective at this new type of growing. We just put season number two of winter sales behind us. We’ve learned a lot from all our gardening adventures throughout the years.

So, despite the fact it makes us sound old…we DO have 80+years of growing experience! …and we are STILL learning!

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