Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Things My Family Taught Me

My dad be a gardenin' fool.

I used to watch him from the window of my bedroom as a kid as he struggled to push the tiller through thick wet dirt and cow manure. I used to follow him through the rows of beans and have him show me what was a weed so I could "help" him pull them.

Don't get me wrong - my mom was also involved with our garden adventures. I remember picking and shelling peas with her. I remember being sent to the garden to get lettuce and learning to wash it in the colander with holes punched in it that made the shape of stars.

One of my students recently interviewed me about the passing on of folklore. She had learned that I knew how to can vegetables and wanted to know how I learned. I told her about days of scalding wet heat where the kitchen was steamy and the mason jars filled with zucchini relish and pickled beets lined up in rows to cool. I told her about a freezer filled to the top with bags of veggies from the garden - corn, peas, beans, tomatoes. I told her about going to the root cellar and picking out potatoes and onions for Christmas dinner when the snow was thick on the roof of our log home and the woodstove warmed my hands when I came up from the basement. I told her about how my grandmother would go out wildcrafting, bringing home fiddleback ferns that she would steam and we would eat with butter.

I thought this was a good post to talk about the things we learn and the traditions we keep alive. I see that often these days this kind of endeavor is linked to privilege. I work with people in poverty and it is way cheaper for them to buy a can of beans at the store than to get mason jars and a pressure canner. People who work over 40 hours a week at minimum wage jobs don't have time to be on their knees in the dark soil. That said, sustainability and the ability for communities to feed themselves is part of the key to ending poverty. I feel grateful I am able to take time to garden. I am grateful that my family taught me about food - how to grow it and keep it.

I have pictures my dad sent me of the start of his garden this year. I hope that it is still standing after Hurricane Irene blew through. These days he plants tomatoes, peppers, onions and other things to make and sell salsa. He's very good at it!

OK - these last 2 are pics of some hubbard squashes he grew last year. SOOOO BIG!

If you have garden pics you are proud of, please email them to and we will post them here!!!


  1. I love this one! My mom made, and still makes freezer jam and cans peaches every year, and we have a large cutting garden at her house too. I hope Eva gets to experience washing and hulling mountains of berrie and peeling heaps of peaches when she gets older.

  2. you know, as much as i love the technical posts, this was for sure one of my favorite posts i've written.