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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?

 
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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.
 
pollinator
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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.
 
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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.
 
master steward
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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...
 
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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!
 
steward
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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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My grandparents (dad's parents) had three acres of garden, he kept bees, Grandma had a funny looking perennial flower called a Penestemon,  Gurneys  had sent it to her by accident. We called it bird mouth flower because if you picked one and squeezed it right it looked like a bird beak opening and closing. Behind the pig shed and where the good car parked inside; was a Johnny Appleseed tree or so it was said. It was huge and very old, and gave a sort of large yellow crab with a bit of pink blush sort of one or two shoulder spots, when ripe. We would crawl onto the roof of the shed and pick and they made the world's best apple butter. Learning that you hoed Creeping Jenny (bindweed) out and picked up every bit and put it in an ice cream pail to get rid of it or it would multiply. Putting honeycomb aside for a few years, it would crystalize and you could eat it wax and all. How to weed how to harvest how to put everything up.

My father gardened and the house I grew up in, he did the front porch (batten wood and skinny tall panes of 'water glass' in upper half) into a greenhouse. He routed a heat vent and lined it all with sheet plastic and we put shelves in the windows and started things. He tried for fuschias for years, and the red spider mites always did them in. Mom loved ivy leaf geraniums and same thing... The first year we had the house and did this, we had the Gurney's catalog (Geo W Gurney still owned it and it was in Yankton SD, was the only catalog that had short season stuff that could grow in say 60 days) and I picked what I wanted, gave my parents my own money. When stuff came we started our seeds and I did so too, a soda/beer flat of cardboard filled with our good black dirt. In the garden I had my own piece and planted my stuff, had to weed it when they worked on stuff, and harvested my stuff and mom fixed it up for me to eat it. That was 1966. 2016 was my 50th year gardening. I started fruit trees from seed in the next few years, then learned to graft stuff. We gardened to eat and ate what we grew. That is what I have them to thank for my love of gardening. Note, I couldn't even read yet. I got some help to sort out what I wanted and how much it cost. Still, I chose what I wanted. And learned weed from good. Gardening as a family is always a good thing.
 
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Growing up in the '60s in a quiet suburb, I wasn't much aware of the details of the origins of our food. It came from the grocery store, was all I knew. I did know that milk and meat came from cows, and eggs came from chickens, but that was the extent of my knowledge. Besides, there was never a reason to understand food. Then, when my family began visiting my grandparents for a couple of weeks each summer, I was exposed to growing food. My parents were old enough to have lived as young people during the Great Depression. My grandparents had rural agricultural roots and were frugal people, something I didn't understand then. Both sets of grandparents had gardens. But, it was my maternal grandparents who opened up my mind to the culinary delights of fresh and preserved foods grown right in their own yards. But, the main point of my story here is the wisdom that my grandmother imparted to my young mind and I didn't even know it until in recent years. So, there I was one summer standing in the rows of their garden. I must have been about 10. Grandma was weeding and I was not doing much. She pulled up a carrot. I had no idea those green tops had carrots under ground. They didn't look that way at the store. She handed me the carrot and encouraged me to eat it. I was aghast. Why would she want me to eat this filthy thing? It had what I now know to be rich soil clinging to the bright orange flesh. I didn't even grab it. I responded, "No, it's got dirt on it!" She proceeded to brush off the dirt and then wiped it with her apron and then extended it back to me and said, "There you go!" I still objected saying it still was dirty. She went over to the hose and washed it off and then offered it to me a third time when I finally took it and ate one of the sweetest and juiciest carrots I've ever had. Then grandma laid something on me I never understood until just three years ago. When I heard her say it, I just passed it off as grandma being a silly old lady and I scurried off to go play croquet with their neighbor kids. This is what she said to me and I've never forgotten it and now realize it was wisdom beyond even her experience.  When she handed me that carrot for the third time she said these words: "You have to eat a peck of dirt before you die."

Knowing what I know now about soil and gut biota, it's astounding how wise her words were. A 10-year-old boy was thinking, well, if I don't eat dirt, I won't die! Then, it took me some time to be exposed to what a peck measure even was. Once I understood that, I still didn't understand the full meaning. It now has taken years of study of plant and soil interactions in the rhizosphere and beyond that I see wisdom in her words, though she did not understand the science behind what she said. But, why did these old people have this saying? What folklore perpetuated this idea? What did the generations of the 19th Century understand about food that we universally don't? I have come to understand, after years of contemplating my grandmother's words that day in their garden on that warm summer morning, that we humans are far more connected to this place where we find ourselves than we realize. The further we distance ourselves from our bond with the planet, the "sicker" we will become because we don't have a peck measure of dirt in us.
 
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1. Taking a paper bag out to the garden, filling it with veggies and declaring, "I'm running away from home". After spending the day on the creek bank and all the contents of your bag are gone, you head back home.

2. Daddy saying, "Get your (expletive) out in the (expletive) garden and pick those (expletive) beans!" He always did have a way with words. Funny how some of those bean plants uprooted themselves.

3. Mama's garden shoes...she cut the front couple of inches off of a pair of canvas sneakers. She said that it made it easier to dump the dirt out of her shoes because she could do so without removing them first.

4. Two of my sisters and I would have garden contests. The sister who always did everything perfect would, of course, have a beautiful, well tended garden. Hers would clearly be destined to win. Then the two evil sisters would strike, creaming her corn, squashing her squash and smashing her potatoes.

 
Deb Rebel
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A corollary. My doctor that retired at the end of 2015 at the age of 95... told of in the 1950's. A couple had wed late in life and even later produced a little girl. Who was sick ALL the time. They came to visit family here and decided to take her to the local doctor hopefully for a different point of view. She was an only and lived her life inside pretty much.

Doc gave her the once over and said, give her a set of measuring cups and go plop her in a mudpuddle outside and let her play. (she was just five). Then he wrote a PRESCRIPTION for them to feed her a teaspoon of yard dirt, every day. The issue was she was never exposed to things and her immune system never got anything to work on, so she got sick with everything. She needed exposure to the real world. Of COURSE the parents were totally incensed. They took her to some big city specialists and after lots of expense, it came up to the same thing. She needed to get out there and be a kid.

Now I hate peas. Little evil green ovoids. That my mom liked to put in everything. Peas and chopped up onions. She thought if she minced up those onions she could get me to eat them. I hated both so things like shellroni loved to hide a pea. If you didn't check every single one. The ground meat had to be picked through to get rid of the onions. The one morsel you didn't check was the one you didn't want to eat. I had a rep for a massively picky eater. Had she just skipped putting those things in my food, I would have eaten robustly. Then I became family cook at start of 7th grade and could make food to the point of putting in the hated stuff, take my portion out, and finish the prep. My mom looked at me one day about four months later and said 'you used to be such a picky eater'. I pointed out the difference in the food served, mine was now missing the hated foodstuffs. I didn't have to look for them anymore. Oh. (my joke was she would have put peas and onions in the cornflakes if she could have gotten away with it)

Now, give this staunch pea hater a nice early summer morning and a row of pea trellis to pick of. Right out of the pod, they are so GOOD, so sweet, so juicy. What happens if they don't go directly from pod to stomach to turn them into foul little evil ovoids, don't ask me. My grandmother introduced me to this guilty pleasure a few years after I started cooking. I really have to thank her for that one as well.
 
Karen Donnachaidh
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When I was little, I liked peas. But my sister (evil sister) didn't like them, so she told me I couldn't eat them either. When we had to eat them, we'd bury them under potatoes or anything else. One thing my sister didn't know was that I'd get up extra early to eat pork brains and eggs with my dad while she slept in.

I certainly agree that exposure to the world outside builds a strong immune system. We baked many mud pies back then. We also played a game in the kitchen where what one sister concocted the others had to taste. That was memorable, believe me!
 
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I remember climbing the tree just outside the farm house (mimosa that was huge), chasing chickens and the milk cows.
I rode one of the milk cows once, getting thrown taught me they didn't act like horses.
I remember digging the garden and picking strawberries but eating one for every one I put in the basket.
Gathering eggs then trying to get away from the rooster that didn't like me inside his house.
Chasing after the headless chickens when we were going to have fried chicken for dinner.
Jumping out of the hay loft and then itching like crazy as I got out of the "jump pile" my pawpaw always made sure was in the right place so I wouldn't break my neck.
Meme would always come out of the kitchen, yelling that he wasn't supposed to let me do that because I could get hurt or die from jumping from so high.
Pawpaw yelling back that he wasn't letting me do it, but he did make sure I had a soft landing spot as long as I hit it.

My best memory from then was when I was taken out to the back pasture near the tree line and taught to dance for the spirits.
I had spent three weeks making my bustle and the horse hair and silver bell jingle anklets. The roach took me three days to get completed.
I danced around the ceremonial fire until my legs wouldn't work anymore. Then, once I got seated I was passed the pipe, it was the first time I was ever offered this and it meant I was now considered a man, no longer a child.
That was a great day.
 
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My brother and I liked to run around the vegetable garden naked, catching skippers that landed on the marigolds my mother planted on the perimeter.

Picking cherry tomatoes and blackberries in the summer, and sugar snap peas come the fall.

I grew up in the suburbs, but my parents were/are major granolas.
 
Karen Donnachaidh
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Stacy, "Granolas"? I've never heard that describing a person. Please explain. (You little naked young'n.)

Bryant, I loved that story. I can picture it in my head.

I'm loving all the stories here. Thank you Deb for resurrecting this thread.
 
Stacy Witscher
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Karen - a granola is like a hippie, but instead of drugs and sex, they just embraced organic gardening and environmental issues. My father was a big fan of Rodale's Organic Gardening, we had greywater and solar in the 70's.
 
Deb Rebel
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Granolas-parents, grandparents, and gardeners?  I will opt for the 'typing dyslexia' or 'sneezed then hit enter before looking' or worse "Autocorrect"

You're most welcome. Sometimes there's some true gold in some of the older threads that still have plenty to offer, so instead of starting a new thread I bring an old one back up.
 
Karen Donnachaidh
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Dan, I had to go back and read your post again. The best I can formulate my thoughts on that are to say that there are certain things that supersede a diploma/degree and understanding, comprehending the wisdom of our elders when given the rare opportunity, that's one of them. Good for you! Pass it on.
 
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I have so many!

  • Swinging on our treehouse swing: Under our treehouse was a swing, and in front of the swing was a red huckleberry bush. If I swung just right, I could snag some berries and keep swinging!


  • My elderberry tree: In our woods was a elderberry tree that grew like a V. I would get in the tree with my feet at the base of the V and my body reclining against one of the sides of the V. I'd pick giant horsechsetnut leaves and pile them up and pretend they were my pillow and I was a native american. I carved my self sticks and pretended to go fishing in the ditch and hunting in the woods with them.


  • My big rock: When my parents had our house built, there were a lot of "glacier erratic" boulders in the way. They had them all moved to one area as a kind of rock garden. Me, my brother, and my two neighbors each claimed a big own rocks. We'd jump from rock to rock pretending there was lava between them, and also pretended our rocks were thrones, and I'm sure all sorts of other things


  • "Sneaking" food: I recall asking my mother if I could have a snack before dinner. She almost always said no. So, I'd ask if I could "go play outside." She, of course, said yes (probably grateful to have me out of her hair). But, instead of playing, I'd pick salmonberries, huckleberies, tomatoes, carrots, green beans, and apples. I thought I was being sneaky and getting a snack without her knowing. She probably knew exactly what I was doing and didn't care because everything was healthy!
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    We moved to a house with a large garden and orchard when I was about 10. It was at the corner and alongside the street were large trees. Fun trees to climb in! And bushes to play hide-and-seek. Closer to the house was a 'shadow garden' under a tree and a small vegetable-and-fruits garden. My parents were not real gardeners, they inherited this garden and kept it as it was. It became a little wilder (my family members are all nature-lovers).

    The fruits I remember were wild strawberries (the tiny ones with the wonderful taste) and Japanese crab-apples (very hard, but good to make jam, with a nice smell). And of course the apples of the orchard, existing of all different apple varieties. During the winter boxes filled with apples were in the shed, to take as much as we liked.
    The first few years there was even a chicken coop with some very small but beautifully colored chickens. I don't remember if they laid eggs.
     
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