I grew up in a gardening family. A gardening family that didn’t observe child labor laws. Each year, my stepfather would jump on the tractor and start tilling what would end up being our labor camp for the summer. We planted seeds, hoed weeds, picked crops, shelled peas, and snapped beans. In hindsight, it was a lesson in labor that I appreciate. Back then, I spent most of my time devising a strategy for revenge against the landowners.
Last year, I planted a garden approximately 8×4 feet. It required a lot of work. The gardens my parents planted when we were younger were somewhere around 40×80 feet. They required a small labor force – or a labor force of small people. I don’t know if we kept inviting our cousins to spend the weekends with us in the hopes our parents would realize we actually wanted to play as kids, or if subconsciously – we knew it would add up to increased productivity and decreased labor time. For some reason, they continued to accept our weekend invitations.
Saturdays always started with my stepfather’s deep voice booming up the stairway for us to get out of bed. There was work to be done and we weren’t allowed to lie in bed all day. I was under the impression the day was long, and technically – 8am didn’t qualify as “all day.” I never won that argument. He was an authoritative, military man whose word was not only last, it was the only one.
So, my younger sister and I, along with our two cousins, would begrudgingly stomp out to the garden for our assigned tasks. It makes sense that laboring away in the Mississippi heat and humidity would cause a kid to thirst and we used this to our advantage. One by one, we’d take a water break until we were all in the house, under the AC, successfully escaping. Our water glasses were usually found between the Atari and couch. Eventually, he would come storming in, yell and order each of us back outside.
I guess the seemingly harsh experiences in our lives can either make or break us. My childhood garden labors made me into a wanna-be-gardener. I probably should have paid more attention as a child. I may have gained some knowledge to go along with my desire. My first attempt at gardening last year was a colossal failure. I planted in the wrong spot (not enough sun), planted my rows east to west (instead of north to south), and watered improperly. I’m learning the only thing I really learned in my childhood is that the day has all but passed once 8am rolls around.
This year, I’m doing more research. I’ve built a raised garden bed in a much sunnier spot. I’m planting the rows in the proper direction, treating the soil, and reading about crops that complement each other in planting. I’m a little behind in planting due to the rain and the amount of time I’ve had lately to devote to the project. I’m excited that Drew is old enough this year to get involved. I plan to let him help me plant, weed, water, and harvest. What goes around, comes around, I guess… in more ways than one. Jon was watching me build the garden box when he suddenly decided he needed to go inside to find the take-out menu so we could order dinner. It turns out the take-out menu was hiding somewhere between his e-mail and Facebook account.