Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Ahead of His Time

When I was younger, I didn't appreciate that my father had two large gardens in which he grew most of the vegetables that nourished my family.  I was too busy complaining about having to weed the onion patch to be thankful.  We also had an apricot tree and two apple trees.  Ugh, how I hated picking up those rotten apples that fell from the tree.  I remember that my sister, father, and I would take the apples to an Amish farm where they ran the apples through a press to make homemade apple cider.  At harvest time, everything would be apples: apple butter, applesauce, apple cider, dried apples, and apple fritters.  Now I'd do just about anything to get my hands on fresh apple cider and homegrown tomatoes.

Another one of my chores was to empty the compost bin.  We had a plastic bin next to the sink (nothing fancy like today's models, it was just a large margarine container) and used it to collect banana peels, apple skins, and other food wastes.   Anytime that bin was filled, day or night, it was my job to run it out to the edge of the yard, next to the garden, and dump it into the compost pile.  And while I complained about having to do that in the winter, or in the dark, I did make sure to get my picture taken next to it before my parents moved from my childhood home to the retirement community.

I used to tell Dad he was embarrassing because he was so old-fashioned.  But maybe, I'm starting to think, he was ahead of his time.  He was composting, collecting rain water, growing his own food, and eating locally before it was even popular.  I don't think he wasn't doing it because it was hip to be green, or because it was good for the environment.  Rather, it was a way to feed his family and save money while doing it.  Gardening was also his exercise and his therapy (which I'm sure he needed after having 6 kids.)

I'm writing this post to thank my father.  There were a lot of great lessons that he taught me, and some of them I am just fully appreciating now.  Of course, I'll have to print this and mail it to him.  While he was ahead of his time on the above issues, he never did master computers and has never been on the internet.


  1. Over the weekend, I got a boatload (3 bags full, really) of eggplant and peppers grown in a friends back yard. I wondered if he's a big fan of eggplant or just had a bigger crop than expected. I'm guessing that his kids are learning some similar lessons regarding gardening, home-grown food, and work! :)

  2. We had six kids in my family too and always had a huge garden. It was definately a great way to save money and eat lots of healthy food. We also lived on a lake and ate fish year round. I wish my neighborhood association would let us have a garden. They are concerned that it will make the neighborhood unattractive so we can't have gardens or hang laundry out to dry. Definately NOT ahead of their time...

  3. Loved this post. My grandparents lived in the heart of Cleveland, OH, and they, too, kept a garden that helped to feed us. Born into a sharecropping family and being children of the depression, they knew how to provide for a family with meager means. My grandmother never owned a dryer, kept everything she owned in pristine condition and made everything from scratch. Unfortunately, every one of those genes skipped me! :-( Thanks for the memories, though!

  4. Lovely tribute to your dad. I always envied families that had gardens. Now, as an adult, I can create my own.

  5. Anonymous10:20 PM CDT

    Great post. Dad would be proud. Make sure to send this to him : )

  6. A beautiful post, and fun to read and remember my many chores in our huge summer garden.

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  9. Anonymous8:00 AM CST

    I love your site~ This is fantastic...You seem to really enjoy what you are doing. It is refreshing to see how much you appreciate your Father and all he has done in sustaining a prosperous garden and I especially love the composting! We too grew up with apple trees...oh the fun I would have with my Mom and those apples...We used a pressure cooker and canned all kinds of yummy chunky applesauce...Those were the carefree days in the 70's...My Uncle Bob and Aunt Rosie (Christy, "Pea Girl's" Grandparents) had a greenhouse and large gardens...I used to turn up my nose at it all when we were young...wanted nothing to do with the fresh vegetables my Uncle Bob used to send home with us...Amazing how we change as adults! I look forward to peeking at your site in the future. My sister lives near Athens, and I will alert her to your cool blog!

    Stephanie McFadden

  10. Thanks everyone for your amazing comments. It seems like a lot of us had some wonderful memories with family gardens and backyard fruit trees. I really hope someday Brian and I live in a place where we have an outdoor space so I can try my hand at gardening too.