In My Daddy’s Garden

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I stepped between the rows careful to place my feet in the furrows, the hot sun heating up my rubber boots. Pulling the weeds from our rows and rows of vegetables in our family garden was a summer ritual. And then in the fall, harvest came.

Around June, we planted the corn in long rows. The little ones would use a stick to measure the distance between the seeds, and the rest just dropped them in at intervals. We walked along. Dropping seeds as we went.

My siblings and I became comfortable with dirt and leaves and seeds and water. It didn’t take long to learn the difference between a baby corn-stalk and a weed playing dressup. And once we were old enough to tell the difference accurately we were assigned a number of rows to hoe and then weed each time we went out.

The earth smelled warm. Those hot days all lined up and we went out early to weed the garden. Up and down rows. With hoes at first and then a careful weeding close around the plants.

When I was little I didn’t like it. I whined and tried to get out of it as much as the next kid. Bad attitudes baked like casseroles in the garden at the back of our property.

But gradually and eventually it changed.

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Instead of focusing on how hot it was, the bugs appearing out of nowhere and crawling all around, and the crusty dirt embedded under my nails in spite of my work gloves, I began to appreciate the stillness of an empty, hot, garden under a blue sky.

The cornstalks rustling.

The distinct green smell of tomato vines.

The sun toasting the back of your as you bent over the rows.

The early morning ritual of being outside before beginning the day’s activities or jumping into a lesson of math.

And the way you could just slowly and steadily get the job done and then look back and see that you did it well.

Accomplishment.

Purpose.

Yes, you have to do it again soon.

But it will be easier the next time. Fewer weeds. Less pain. And then the harvest comes which is another work in itself what with the picking and canning and bustle that goes into 200 quarts of tomatoes on the pantry shelf.

But good all the same.

Now. Those are the things that I want. The peaceful ritual. The passing on of earth, and plants, and sun, and hard work.

A legacy for my littles.

I’ll tell them stories. Maybe they’ll appreciate them. Maybe they won’t. And my garden is only a fraction of the size of my dad’s 50×100 ft. masterpiece, but still lessons can be taught and appreciation and character grown, right?

As an adult, the first thing I wanted when we bought a house with a yard was a space for a little garden. I love the transformation that takes place.

From dry brown earth to a managerie of plants and vegetables.

I love spending time outside. In the sun. And the heat. I love the feeling of the morning sun baking through my hair.

I still don’t like the feeling of dirt under my nails, but that’s what soap and gloves are for, right?

I like the ritual of reaching and pulling and throwing away.

I like the rhythm of planting and tending and picking the fruit.

I like the intentional motions that go into tending a garden and making things grow.

An intention I learned at home when I was little weeding row after seeming endless row of corn. And many other things. In our family garden.

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Do you have childhood chores turned hobbies in your adulthood? Why do you think we can come to enjoy something we once thought drudgery?

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This topic was inspired by Five Minute Friday at Lisa Jo’s, but I kept going and then edited after five minutes so it’s no longer a five minute thing.

I am linking up with my lovely (in)couraging writers group over here. We are playing with writing memoir. We would love for you to join us in the linkup, if you’d like, with a little piece of your story.

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76 thoughts on “In My Daddy’s Garden

  1. I felt like I was in the garden with you, bent down, hot sun on my neck, and that distinct smell of tomato vine. Makes me long for summer as we shovel out of piles of snow. Amazing how childhood chores we did begrudgingly become activities we choose as adults. Visiting from the (in)courage writers group.

    Christy @ A Heartening Life
    http://www.ahearteninglife.com

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh you make me long for spring, madly. I love this piece. You’ve worked memories into concrete words with the dirt and sun and plants. Simple words that evoke all the feelings involved in gardening and then you wound it into an experience applicable to life. Tending and nurturing and investing in something. Lovely writing, Erika. Thanks for joining in with this exercise.

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  3. I like how you weaved and planted that post all together. I particularly liked this line, “Bad attitudes baked like casseroles in the garden at the back of our property. ” Good job!

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  4. You’ve really struck a chord here with this beautifully written piece. Reminded me of days of hot hoeing of veggies that I hated as a child. Have since learned to love the veggies and the feelings of accomplishment when a job has been well done. Lyrical writing – thank-you!

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  5. This is such a beautiful post. I grew up in the country and have been deeply influenced by nature, the outdoors, and growing up close to the land. We’re moving into our first house with land this summer and I’m so excited to have a garden and to spend time outside again. It’s so important to me to raise our family close to the earth and to teach them all I can about life and God through the fingerprints He leaves all over nature. Thanks for this beautiful reminder of warm-weather days spent outside under the sun :]

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  6. Early childhood chores that turned into hobbies? An interesting thought. Not doing dishes or laundry. Not yard work, Not house cleaning. But, quiet time alone. Being sent to my room for punishment. Now it’s my sanctuary. It’s my time with the Holy Spirit in a room I call my own. Not a chore or a punishment, but a privilege. My, how perspectives change, huh? Thanks for the thoughtful blog. I’ll be back!

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  7. As a children my sisters and I helped out in the garden a lot. We did not like it but it was something that just had to be done. We picket berries and beans. Dug out potatoes and much more. Now I have my own garden and run the schoolgarden at the school of my children. One thing I have learned is to only grow vegetables that you actually eat. I mean things you all like. Otherwise you’ll be stuck with loads of veggies no one likes. Every year I grow potatoes, corn, rhubarb, onions, beans, broccoli and garlic. I also have a corner with fruits like berries, plums and cherries.
    Gardening…I love it!

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  8. Great read! I too disliked helping my mother with her garden growing up. Now as an adult, I often times wished I payed more attention to her gardening ways as I find myself longing for fresh grown herbs and vegetables and want to grow them myself.

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  9. It’s funny how many of us return to the ways our parents taught us, isn’t it? My parents grew and made and preserved our food, which I am now ashamed to say, I thought boring. Their ways had their wilderness years when I would no more have picked up a hoe or a spade than I would entertain thoughts of adopting a crocodile as a lap pet. Now I am very proud to have a garden, where I work to grow the food that I love to cook and share with family and friends.
    Like you, from what hou have written here, the wilderness years of the ways of my parents were a very small blip in the passage of my life. Thank you for reminding me of the warm weather and honest work to come soon outdoors

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  10. Found your post on ‘Freshly Pressed’ and jumped to it because it was about gardening. I really enjoyed reading it. It is so true that the things we do in childhood are so important to us. We want the same plants and trees in our gardens that we grew up with in our parent’s gardens. By the way I love getting my hands dirty – you just can’t do some gardening jobs with gloves on!

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    1. Hey, our writing group is through incourage.me and signups will happen again in the summer again, I think? It is more just for writing. Not specifically memoir. This was just an exercise for this day. I hope you can find a great group to be a part of!

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  11. I really like the Five Minute Friday idea and I LOVE your description of working in the garden. My Papaw and Daddy had gardens and nothing in the world is better than a handful of sweet peas snuck off the vine or a sun warmed tomato, perfectly ripened.

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  12. This is fantastic! You’re descriptions of the sights and smells really took me there. Definitely considering this as a weekend Unpattern. Would you be interested in contributing?

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      1. You’re most welcome. As for Unpattern, it is a community site I started to break daily routines (patterns) at least once a day. :) Think of any and feel free to contribute one!

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  13. Its always good to remember what we were taught as kids. I will never forget waking up at the crack of dawn with my grandpa and take the beautiful sunrisen horizon path to our ranch. The small of the animals, the feel of the wind. Definetly something my kiddos have to experience!

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  14. Lovely piece of ‘en’-couraging (what;’s with the ‘i’? Am I missing something?) writing. Lovely memories of nasturtiums and candytuft, the first things I grew in my 4 foot square when I was wee. RC

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