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Favorite Childhood Garden Memories  RSS feed

 
            
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Someone mentioned a grape hut the other day.  Wow - how fun!  It set me to wondering what people's strongest childhood garden/plant memories are.  When you close your eyes and think back to your early years, and consider nature/plant experiences, what do you think of?  I know many of you have great stories to tell! : )

I'm beginning to compile a list of treasured childhood garden stories, species, components, and the like.  I figured this was as good as place as any to start (well, better than most, actually).  So...

Did you have a favorite hidey hole, climbing tree, plant, place, or thing in or near a garden (or 'natural' area) when you were little? 

What do you remember most about your early connection to plants?

Specific species or structures?  Smells?  Sounds?

 
Leah Sattler
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oh wow! I have tons of memories! climbing the magnolia tree. standing in the garden eating peas (still do that, and it is now one of my daughters favorite things). my friends and I "digging to china" in the soft soil. my mother complaining about crab grass everytime she worked in the garden (now thats what I do!). My mother showing me grubs and telling me they were bad and showing me earthworms and telling me they were good! an arched arbor covered in canteloupe vines that created a great hideway. watching my mother tie up each canteloupe as it got bigger to keep it from slipping the vine early. I could go on.
 
Brenda Groth
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our grandparents lived in the 2 houses behind us..one behind the other..and behind them was a creek..there was a cement railroad bridge that went over the creek..and it had a ledge that we could walk on..well scidder sideways on..and we would go under there and hide when trains went over..

To get to the other side of the creek there were two bridges, that one and a footbridge...or you would take your shoes off and wade through the pebbles in a shallow area.

On the other side of the creek was a HUGE tree, couldn't tell you what kind but maybe a willow? it was very easy to climb into and had hollered spots where you could stick things in to hide them..It was my favorite climby tree in the 50's.

we had our trails and paths through the woods and swamps all the way to the MILL POND. There were waterfalls at both lakes on either end of OUR creek..where old power plants used to sit when hydro was cool.

Picking things with my family was always happening, raspberries, morels, huckleberries, corn, etc. Both sets of grandparents had huge gardens.

Being 4th of July weekend..I remember as a child..when the town could afford fireworks, we would wander to the first set of grandparents and sit on their picnic table by the garden and watch the fireworks from their place..then wander back to the house to go to bed.
 
                                    
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I remember doing a practice fire escape and falling out my window into a raspberry patch. 

I remember being amazed that forests somehow made paths through the grass and brush just my size (animal paths, I suspect). 

I remember spitting chokecherry pits at the sheets my mom hung on the clothesline to make stain art.

I remember getting paid $1 per icecream pail for saskatoons, and I remember my mom freezing something like 23 pies that year.

I remember carefully pulling grass up so that I could bite the white bit off the bottom, and spending vast amounts of time sucking honeysuckle.  Lots of work for very little reward in both cases, but always worth it 
 
Leah Sattler
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I have memories of going my grandparents in SD and canning tomatoes, fishing, and eating fried chicken! I still can't make fried chicken like my grandma. I rememeber toodling around her garden and her complaining about the black walnut nearby. my brother smashing mulberries from her tree in my shirt. a bit older and they would drive us around and show us the old homesteads. talk about how little they had to eat then, especially my grandfather. my grandfather would occasionally get a boiled egg to take to school to eat and that would be it. my grandfather talking about the 40 some odd cows he had to milk before he went to school. and his mother sending butter with him to school to pay for his education. how he left the farm when his dad refused to buy a tractor so they could keep up production like the other farms and was still making him plow the fields with horses.
 
Brenda Groth
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that seems so kinda sad..

my grandfather worked for the county and when they were mowing the sides of the road the mower took the head off of his partner..grandpa was never right after that..he quit and trapped and gardened and kinda became a hermit.
 
Gwen Lynn
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Geeze, Brenda...that doesn't sound like a "Favorite Childhood Memory" to me! I like the other ones you posted much more!

My childhood was spent in a suburb just outside of Chicago, IL.

One of first things I learned to do in a garden was weeding, of course! My 2 great Aunts lived right next door. I would help them with their flower beds. They always had verbena which would self sow every spring. I was their verbena seedling spotter. They would dig up the seedling and plant it where they wanted it. Eventually they taught me how to dig one up.

I remember being fascinated by how a poppy seed head looked and I actually thought it was milk oozing out when I broke the head off the stem. Fortunately, at an early age, somebody set me straight about "poppy milk"! Verbena, geraniums, poppies, violas, lily of the valley, crocus, tulips, daffodils, moss roses, peony and regular roses are all flowers I've always recognized since early childhood.

Our neighbors on the other side of my Aunt's yard were from Latvia. They had a great garden with leaf lettuce, rhubarb (yummy!), delicious gooseberries & currants (along with tomatoes and other veggies), which I would feast on to my heart's content. How I loved gooseberries! They had apple trees and pear tree that was really good for climbing. Their mom would always cut leaf lettuce for my mom to make wilted lettuce salad w/bacon for my dad, it was a fave of his. I like it too, my mom makes it for me now.

Our other neighbor had a wonderful sour cherry tree! Oh those cherries were so good! (I hadn't eaten a cherry like that in more than 30 years, until just a couple of weeks ago. My hair stylist has one on her property and I ate a few cherries. Really brought back childhood memories.) Giant, tall lilac bushes bordered that neighbors property. Lilacs smell so good!

My nearest (age wise) sibling was 7 years older than me, and a boy. So consequently, I spent a lot of time by myself. One of my fave games to play was in the fall when the trees were dropping leaves. I would run around and catch leaves; sometimes with friends, competing to see who caught the most.

Learning how to hold a blade of grass between my thumbs & make an obnoxious sound by blowing across it. Chasing lightning bugs until I was breathless. Have you noticed there just doesn't seem to be as many fireflies as there used to be?

When I was very young I would sit with a bottle of dish soap and a little water and make bubbles on the sidewalk. I would pretend the bubble was a dome over another world inside. I was entranced by all the swirling colors on the surface of the bubble. Running through sprinklers was always entertaining; even now I prefer to wash my hair outside in the summertime!
 
Leah Sattler
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Brenda Groth wrote:
that seems so kinda sad..

my grandfather worked for the county and when they were mowing the sides of the road the mower took the head off of his partner..grandpa was never right after that..he quit and trapped and gardened and kinda became a hermit.


yikes! although some of the old people memories are sad, the memories of being told the stories are good. grandparents on both my sides worked in nursing homes (my dads parents ran one and my other grandmother worked in one). they had some pretty crazy stories to tell. one story about some poor old guy was told often......they thought he had defecated in his pants, and my grandmother was 'holding it" to keep it from falling out on the way to the bathroom. the old guy kept saying. hey. hey. hey. (my grandmother always imitated his deep voice...apparently the guy couldn't really communicate well anymore) when they got to the bathroom my grandmother realized she wasn't holding poo. she was very embarrased.
 
Jocelyn Campbell
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Sara, what a great idea!

I grew up in the suburbs of Seattle, but there was this undeveloped tract of land near us of second growth forest. It was by far my favorite place to be.

The kids in my family (4 of us), plus the neighborhood kids, all loved to play in "the woods" as we called it. There was a stream that ran through it, with plenty of mossy-soft logs next to it that we'd sit on to just watch and listen to the babbling sounds. You know how it is that the moss would feel so dry and soft, but after sitting a while, the wetness would start to soak into your backside? No matter how many times I did this as a kid, I was always surprised to get wet, because it just seemed the moss was the perfect place to sit!

In the winter, sometimes the stream would ice over (not very often in the Northwest) and then you just had to see which parts of the ice you could stand and slide around on, or which parts of the ice would break through. Kinda like breaking ice on mud puddles--as a kid, that is so much fun!

Then there was this great big, old stump on its side. It was the picnic stump, because half a dozen of us could climb on it and have a picnic! And it was a pirate ship, where we'd sail away on adventures and jump on and off it to get away from monsters or pirates or to 'dive' in for a swim. That stump was so cool.

Then there was the "monkey tree." This was most definitely not a monkey puzzle tree, and I really can't recall what type of tree it might have been. It was a big tree with really strong, bouncy lateral branches. Three or four of us would climb up on the branches, standing on a lower one, holding another branch about waist or chest high, and we'd bounce up and down and get all crazy just like monkeys! It was so much fun to bounce on those branches!

Then there was the fort my brother and his friends built. It was built on/amidst three or four trees - maybe douglas firs, which would be most likely, but I can't recall for sure. The bottom level was a completely enclosed clubhouse with sides and a low, maybe 4 or 5-foot ceiling. There was a hatch in the top and you hoisted yourself up through it to the second level, which was the roof of the first. As you stood on top of the clubhouse, above your head was another platform. I can't recall if there was a ladder or boards nailed to the tree, but you'd climb up to that platform for a third "story." There were no rails, no walls, so it was thrilling! If you felt really, really bold, there was one more level to climb! Up there, that platform swayed with the movement of your climbing or any wind that might rustle through the woods. My friends' parents told them they weren't allowed to climb to that platform, because it was too dangerous. But they did. 

In the woods, there were those amazing, big, half-circle fungus that grow on the sides of trees and logs -
I always liked finding and looking at those. Then there were so many, many different kinds of moss and lichens. One day, I collected each and every different variety I could find and just enjoyed looking at and touching them.

Just across my street from the woods, was a ditch (that fed into the stream) that was always full of frogs, frog eggs and polywogs. I'll never forget once collecting a bucket of frog eggs, taking them home to see them hatch and grow their legs, and how one of the eggs turned into a black salamander with a yellow stripe down its back! That was the coolest thing ever. Once they were big enough that I didn't know how to care for them, I did return them to the ditch.

I grew up catching not just frogs, but garter snakes, too. The best way was to lightly step on their tail, then grab them with forefinger and thumb behind their head. If you grabbed them too low on their body, they'd poop or pee on you to try to get away.  There was a field next to the woods where you could always find snakes under rocks or pieces of plywood left there, probably by my brother and his friends just for that purpose. Finding a lizard was much more rare, and they were much harder to catch because they'd lose their tails when you tried to grab them.

Back home, I would plant "gardens" with my friends by taking rhodedendron blossoms, or the gladioloas blossoms my friend's grandma would give us, and placing them in rows in the dirt of the garden beds around my house. Another favorite place to hide and hang out was in the middle of a thick stand of cottonwood trees in my front yard. When you were in there, no one could see you! I think we found other hidey holes, too, but that was one of the best because it wasn't prickly like the junipers or spruces.
 
                    
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where to start.
My grandparents farm was sort of the hub of our existence.  when their nine kids got married they cleared a piece of the woods and built a house and so we were sort of a family commune.  there never was a dull moment.  there always was work on the farm.  We did everything the really old way.  We never had a tractor.  One of my uncles was a little handicapped in the head, never married, but a kind soul. He bought a walk behind sicklebar mower, must have been the first one ever made, he never got it to work and the wheat field needed to be cut.  I was fifteen and I mowed the whole field, maybe an acre, with the scythe and grandma bundled the wheat, then we set up shucks.
I always wanted to make a rock garden .  A rockgarden with little garden dwarves here and there. Mother told me I was nuts, we don't have money for such foolishness.  she always wanted me to pick weeds, which I hated but had to do anyway. Last year I got me two garden dwarves. They don't make them as pretty anymore.
I remember when I was three or four, dad digging the holes to plant our fruit trees. The holes seemed so big to me.  the trees all did well, two of the cherry trees are still standing, old and gnarled now, but still bearing. 
  I remember being sent to the garden around noon to fetch stuff that mother needed to finish cooking. Parsley, chives, lovage, green onion tops, dill. Everything tasted so good with those fresh herbs.
Where I grew up there were acres and acres of wild blueberries and wherever logging had been done, soon that area would be covered in red raspberries.  My sister, I and my cousins picked buckets and buckets of berries.  My back would ache, but I loved it. For as long as blueberry season lasted  my hands and teeth would be purple from the wild blueberries. 
My maternal grandmother was one to gather wild herbs,  she was always drying teas and mushrooms and I would go with her on her forays.  She did not like it if you made noise in the woods, we went quietly and spoke softly.  She grew the most magnificent alpine carnations in her window boxes, they smelled spicy sweet, were bright red and cascaded down the window sill. My mother always had lots of flowers and my grandma would make the most lovely victorian bouquets. On my way home from school I would pick  bouquets of the wild flowers in season.  My favorites were daisies and campanula, along one hedgerow there were lily of the valley growing wild,  in spring I really loved cowslip and marshmarygolds, and the wind anemones that grew along the edge of the woods in profusion.  In wet meadows forget- me- nots also grew in profusion. For mothers day I would get a bunch, lay them carefully in a circle in a small bowl and put a rock on the stems, then add water, soon they would grow upright and it looked really pretty.
Up the hill from us there was an old castle and on the other side of it was a sort of deep ravine with big boulders and tall fir trees. It was cool, darkish there, and I loved the thick green moss that grew in profusion on those boulders.  I really loved the feel of that cool moss on my barefooted feet. At christmas time I would get some of it and make a landscape with it for the nativity set. some blueberry branches stuck in half a potato and some juniper branches were the trees.  Way up in the mountain a kind of grass grew that had thin round blades, almost like hair and there were dense  patches of it here and there. My daughter always loved it especially, she said it looks like the woods have green fur. I better stop or I'll get carried away.
 
                              
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Oh my, I have not thought about this for several years now.  But it brings back a lot of good memories.  My Grandfather grew grape in a small town just past Erie Pa.  He sold them to Welches for grape jelly.  The farm was broken up into two parcels, the smaller parcel was situated around the farm house while the larger parcel was located just past the second house down the road.  The farm was situated high enough that if you looked immediately south you could see Lake Erie.  The work at the farm never seemed to end, but we also had a lot of time to play around the farm with my cousin, I was the oldest grandchild with another male cousin a year younger than I was.  Ronnie lived in my Uncle's house next to my Grandparents while I lived in Ohio, visiting anytime we could to be with family.

The work started in the spring with walking the vineyard to pick up rocks that surfaced magically every year.  It seemed like not matter how hard I tried I could not will the stones to stop coming.  We walked behind an old Allis Chalmers tractor in faded orange color which pulled a heavy metal trailer with a bed made from expanded metal in heavy rust color.  The trailer hurt to sit on when riding to and from the field.  All of the rocks were dump over the edge of the creek bed at the rear of the vineyard property.  The summer gave way to smell of the grapes as they grew, my cousin and I walked them daily to go fishing in the creek or to build a fort with dead wood along the creek.  Sometimes we would diverge our path to pick hickory nuts for my Grandmother or berries for a pie.  Boysenberries, gooseberries, elderberries, or mulberries, or raspberries, it did not matter to her or to us.  We ate them all the same.  The fall was a busy time picking the grapes, we all assisted but Grandpa ran the tractor while the rest of us picked the grapes.  Cutting the bunches with pruning scissors and carefully placing them in plastic totes and then onto the metal trailer.  No one could pick as fast as my Grandmother, even though we tried and tired.  My mother came the closest to her speed, I think she had the most practice compared to the rest of us mere mortals.  But the smells of the ripened grapes still permeate my brain.

Grandma had a garden behind the barn next to the farm house.  We had to take out the garbage for the compost heap, Ronnie and I took turns as my cousins always ate with us when visiting.  Large dinners of fresh meat and seafood were the main fair, but always supplemented with a salad.  Grandpa always said you had to have your greens.  Grandpa was also a game warden and a sportsman, he hunted and fished so there was always venison, coho salmon smoked and fresh, rabbits, and if we were really fortunate a few pheasants from the acreage behind the barn where Grandpa has his personal grapes for wine making.  The garden covered a little under an acre situated right against the back of the barn.  We kept it well watered using a pump which fed the water from a small creek that split my Grandparents house and my Uncles house.  We did not pick from the garden as it was sacred to my Grandma, she alone held that honor.  Beside the garden were a few fruit trees, a large purple plum tree next to the garden with a pear tree and apple trees across the creek.

My Great Grandfather lived in Florida but stayed at the farm every summer, he was a statuesque man with white hair and a thick Italian accent.  We took daily walks around the farm where he taught me a little about native plants and their use.  I wish I could remember more because I am sure that he offered, I just do not remember.  Our first stop was along the side of the driveway to pick our rose hips for vitamin C, then behind the barn and into the vineyard to pick a variety of grasses and plants for his teas, carefully air dried in the barn away from my younger cousins.  Chamomile I remember clearly, tasting the results when finished drying as a reward for the help I provided.  If I were not careful I would disturb a pheasant nest which my Great Grandfather noticed from faraway.  He pointed the nest out and then steered me toward a safer path.  We would arrive back at the barn with our arms full of harvested plants for drying.  It was then our attention would turn toward his bread, he ground his own flours for a thick dark bread that could not be eaten in a sandwich.  Too dense and too dry for my tastes, but tastes change over the years and I would love to have a bite of the again.  Carefully measured were the scoops of sunflower seeds, grains, corn and the like until he had the correct mixture for the bread.  Happily grinding the flour by hand and never more than he was going to use at that time.  Sometimes he would not have enough of one item like sunflower seeds, so he would send me back out the barn door to pick a few more sunflower seeds for the right mixture.  I would always get a chance to grind the flour, that was my chore to earn a fresh slice of the bread when still hot from the oven.  This was the only time that it was soft enough to swallow without loads of butter or fresh honey.  Oh to simpler times...
 
rose macaskie
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gosh childhood memories in the country really make you feel brotherhood, that you are all the same.rose
 
                                    
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I like this thread - reading it reminds me of some of my favorite books.

We weren't farmers, but we lived in a very rural area in the middle of nowhere in KS and all of my friends' families were farmers.  My dad owned and operated a small local slaughterhouse and my parents were clueless about gardening/farming.    We rented an old homestead.

There were 3 huge old trees in the front yard - red cedar and juniper, I think.  Their branches all came together and made a big 'secret hideout' underneath, where my sister and I spent many hours playing house.  I loved to climb up into the branches, which were woven together in places and made little natural hammocks.  I was crazy about reading and I would lay up in those branches and read for hours.  I tried to sleep up there.  On the rare occasion that a car would come down our dirt road, I'd lay so still and pretend I was a cougar watching them drive by, and giggle because they couldn't see me.

I remember 3 old unmarried sisters who lived together and gardened and canned.  They all wore double-knit polyester dresses which zipped down the front and came to just below their knees, with kneehighs and sensible shoes.  They sat shelling green beans and peas on their bellies all day long and they all had identicle dirt stains in the same places on their dresses.

The people who'd lived in our house before us had planted strawberries in a small patch.  My mom was determined to pick and freeze or eat every single strawberry.  It was such a small patch, but there were so many strawberries that it was all we could do to keep up.  It seems like all we did that summer was pick and freeze and eat strawberries.  Our freezer was overflowing with them and we were grateful when they finally stopped coming.  I seem to remember actually vomiting strawberries . . . they weren't as bad as other things coming up!

Our landlord grew soybeans and he let us sit in the back of the truck during harvest.  We weren't allowed to sit directly under the chute as they were shooting out, but we got to swim in a sea of soybeans - it was like one of those ball things they have for kids at the fair, but much better.

My friend's dad brought us with him to harvest wheat, and we ran all around the field picking mulberries and getting our hands, faces, and clothes stained.  He brought us to the pasture and let us pick off pieces of the salt blocks he had out for the cows and lick them - we got so thirsty.

We had walnut trees. We used to crush them and peel off the husks and try to get the nuts out with our hands, a hammer, and an ice pick.  Our hands got so stained and I got so sick of the smell.  Wherever I looked there were walnuts - crushed in the driveway, on the sidewalk, in the grass . . .  I still get sick remembering the smell.

I could go on forever!
 
Ken Peavey
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I grew up in Maine.  My great grandmother had a blueberry field we would all pick for 2-3 weeks every August so it had to be late August, maybe the first week of September.  Must have been 1977, maybe 1978.  The BeeGees were real big back then.  There was me, my brother, Sean and Pat Myatt (mother hated these guys) from over the fence, and Jeff from over the other fence.  We must have been 11-12, maybe Pat was 10.  My mother had planted a garden and the vegetables were coming ripe.  I think it was Pat who found the first carrot.  It was like lions on a wildebeast after that.  We got into the carrots, had to go through them all to see who could find the biggest.  Then the onions-not the best eating but Jeff's cat came walking by, what a beautiful target!  (no actual cats were injured in the writing of this story.)  Pats little brother Matt came over, said he knew where there was some corn the next block over.  We got on the bikes, and with the newfound energy from our feeding frenzy headed off to our destination with a sense of purpose that would make Rommel proud.  We approached the objective from the south, stashing the bikes under My Shepard's lilac bush, hiding them by covering them with a dog.  We cut through Anderson's yard then went into stealth mode as we rounded the garage.  In front of us was a sight more compelling than King Tut's treasures...CORN!!! 

Piranha would have found the scene shocking.

We dove in like Olympic Swimmers.  By the time I had my first ear I caught a glimpse of Sean already tossing down his first finished cob onto a mess of silk and leaves,  Matt had a mouthful of silk.  I bit right through the leaves-MAGGOTS.  Pthewie...grab the next one.  After a couple of ears succumbed to my own efforts, Jeff found a pumpkin and immediately headed for the road.n  SPLAT, that was that.  Now we had to try out all the other stuff in the garden to see if they would splat. The DeRoches had a big white barn.  My brother was into the tomatoes, turned it into a big white barn with red polka dots.  Right around here Ray Ray showed up on his bike-had a banana seat.  It was kind of a sissy seat but he made up for it with cards and clothespins on the spokes.  He saw the people who owned the house coming up the street, gave us a heads up.  We evacuated the scene of destruction, moved the dog, collected the bikes and headed home after a good days work and a job well done.

 
rose macaskie
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My sister got caught breaking the windows of the Reading Room, a house by the stream that had been used to read the newspaper in and some books ttoo i suppose in other times, maybe it allowed all the villagers who wanted to to read the knews paper, however poor there wer in th eold days, it seemed strange in our time to have a place like that. It was empty when we threw stones at it. I did not own up to having done the same a week before. She got into terrible trouble, it was the policemens sons, the same age as us, nine or ten or something maybe younger, who had told us it was fine to break windows in empty houses.
  That was terrible ravage you reeked on the vegetables what would have happened to you if you had got caught. rose macaskie.
 
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