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Time to play in the dirt, wrestle with weeds

Posted Monday, April 19, 2010, at 8:40 AM

Spring has sprung! For farmers and area gardeners that means it is time to play in the dirt.

So the other day, as I was enjoying the sunshine, working in my vegetable garden and realizing I was a year older than the last time I ran the tiller or swung a hoe, I started thinking about what it would be like and how great my garden would look, if only I had a little more help.

That's when it dawned on me: First Lady Michelle Obama is a genius. After all, she's managed to be a hard-working mother and still raise a beautiful, bountiful garden on the White House lawn: lots of fresh vegetables for her family and others.

And how has she done it? Fresh labor!

Yes, lots of eager kids. Each week they seem to have a fresh labor pool pull up in a bus ready to plant, pull weeds and harvest. I'm trying to figure out how I can get a bus or two to my farm!

The truth is that the Obama's daughters seem to be hard-working, remarkable girls, but speaking from experience, if one of their chores became the exclusive weeding of the garden every day or even every week, the grumbling would begin, followed by excuses.

"I have homework," "I think Dad needs my help in the Oval Office" or maybe better yet, "Bo ate my homework, so I have to go do it again, I can't hoe the garden today."

The one I always heard, was "Dad needs my help in the field, I think," or when they were really desperate to get out of hoeing and picking, "Uh, wouldn't you rather I mow the lawn?"

Believe me I've heard them all. In fact, I've told a few of those excuses myself.

There are days when all the fresh vegetables in the world can't motivate me enough to hoe another row or pick another green bean.

I tell myself things like, "You've been on a tractor all day, you deserve a rest, the weeds will be there tomorrow," "Maybe I should mow the lawn instead," or my favorite: "A few weeds might make the plants grow better, they'll have to compete, they'll get stronger."

Of course, when I say that I'm ignoring a well known documented fact: Weeds in a garden are a lot like dishes in a sink or dirty laundry in a pile -- the more you ignore them, the more they multiply like rabbits.

One day every summer it seems I drive by and realize those "strong" plants are buried in weeds and if I have any hope of great-tasting tomatoes for the summer, I have to find them ASAP!

The truth is vegetable gardening is hard work and keeping a nice vegetable garden, with enough food to feed my family and "put up" some extras for winter, isn't easy. It takes a lot of labor.

I think that is why some experts have predicted that this new "grow your own" craze won't last much more than two years. The theory is that people will realize it's easier to buy a vegetable somewhere than to plant, weed and harvest your own.

I really hope they are wrong. The truth is despite my grumbling, learning to garden has been a great joy in my life. I am glad those buses of kids are getting a chance to learn a little about it.

When I was young, growing up in Kansas City, I used to beg my mother to buy me seed packets at our local hardware store. For several years, I planted a garden, by hand, using a small shovel and most likely ignoring the package instructions. The truth is, I never harvested a vegetable.

Now that I am a "real" gardener, I realize it may have been because that "bare spot" I used as my garden was covered in shade under several large maple trees. In fact, come to think of it, weeds never grew there either. (Yes that should have been a clue.)

But I didn't know any of that, and although there is no doubt earlier generations of my family did know how to garden, it was a lost art by the time I showed interest. In fact, besides for the few tomato plants our neighbor took care of, I didn't know anyone, in my family or even my neighborhood who had a vegetable garden.

So when I first came to Marshall, I was immediately taken by the big vegetable gardens in and around town. But even they had started to disappear -- until last year, when thanks in part to Mrs. Obama's garden, others were inspired to give it a try.

I learned to garden from my mother-in-law, who had a real green thumb. She had one of those gardens that I admired.

Unfortunately, I'm not much of a gardener, I don't get the best yields, have the cleanest garden or prettiest crops, but we do get a few things we can eat, and that is the point.

In 26 years, I missed only one year of gardening and that was in 2006, a year which we had a tornado, my mother-in-law had a devastating stroke and we lost both my mother and my stepmother.

Everytime I saw my bare garden I wondered if I would ever plant vegetables again. After all, it's easier to buy the veggies at the store and mow the garden, than to spend time tilling, planting, hoeing and weeding.

But the truth is once you dig in that dirt and learn you can make something grow out of it, it's tough to give up. I really missed my weedy, crooked-row, sometimes-sick-looking vegetable garden.

So each year, when I start to get tired of the work, I remember how much I missed it when I didn't have one. That thought spurs me on to keep working and quit complaining.

Well, that thought and the one about how I can get a bus full of kids to help ...


Honey, have you ever thought of running for president? I hear it pays well and you get to live in this great big white house and ...

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Dear NanaDot,

They will look back and be glad they did it!! Through the years, I've eaten my weight in garden produce (esp. blueberries) before I've ever left the garden!! That's the reward!!

Glad it gave you a laugh!


-- Posted by Marcia Gorrell on Mon, Apr 19, 2010, at 1:22 PM

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