Pickles and Other Stuff by Peggy Bogaard-Lapp
I was born in the summer, and have always been much more productive and connected during the May-September months. My dad was a backyard gardener, the closest thing he could get to having his own farm. He came from a long line of Iowa farmers, and I always thought he seemed out of place in the big city. His father came to Denver as a young man, I assume because he didn’t want to be a farmer like his 8 brothers. As a young boy my dad lived on a farm in eastern Colorado, earning his room and board in a faster home, and that must have triggered the farmer instincts, because dad was always growing something after that. I remember him telling me that when he was twelve, the foster mother allowed him to plant a full acre of whatever he liked, and that he would be able to keep the money he earned from the crop. Dad chose beans – and I guess he did well because his love of planting and farming grew from there (pun intended). I can imagine him walking the field each day, after his other chores were done, bending down to pull a weed, test the soil, straighten a bean pole. When you are surrounded by a crop, the earth warm beneath your feet, you can temporarily forget about life’s challenges. You have something to care for, to nourish, and to show for your efforts. Dad and I never talked about what gardening meant to each of us, but I am sure that is the way he felt. He learned as he went, occasionally referring to his gardener’s bible, the Reader’s Digest Complete Book of The Garden. Inside the book are the tags pulled from things he planted; pussy willow, snowball bush, and forsythia. I have the book now, and while it’s a bit outdated, it still has good advice. I would probably go back for it if my house were ever to catch fire! Dad marked the page for rose bush planting and care, one that he referred to often I’m sure. Dad had over twenty roses in his front yard, the most impressive in the neighborhood. Mom’s favorite was a yellow tea rose and the rare lavender tea was mine. Like his children, dad would tend to the roses, giving them each a loving touch and helping them to thrive.
I have a small stretch along the fence for planting my garden. In the past I have planted tomatoes and peppers, and I have had good luck with them. My neighbor shared garlic and horseradish with me, although I have no idea just what to do with the horseradish (suggestions?). It still is a nice looking, bushy plant with tall dark green leaves. This last week I picked the first of my cucumbers, which are a lot like the first tomato – the taste is just wonderful when it comes from your own garden. I already have several summer squash and zucchini, but have not yet had to pawn them off on friends and neighbors. We were lucky to have a sunflower that seeded itself from last year’s crop. I love to watch it turn it’s face to the sun, looking east in the morning, west in the evening. I have a feeling that the squirrel is also watching it closely, hoping to get a hold of the abundance of seeds. Gardening is something I love to share with my daughter Erica. She is pretty interested, but gardening for a ten year old must have fun gadgets; pink garden gloves and a mini shovel to dig, and she does bring her iPad along to take photos. Erica is a pickle fanatic, and we found an easy recipe to pickle the cucumbers, something I wish I had done with my mom when I was a kid.
Summer lends the time and opportunity to do all sorts of fun projects with kids. At the beginning of summer, I had a full two months of planned activities that we were going to do. We have only four weeks left of summer vacation before the dreaded first day of school. I feel an urge to fill the last days with cool projects, and trips to the water park. But I also want to spend a lot of that time just being free of schedule and routine, and once we subtract time for Yellowstone, camping, family visits, and general down days, I have about twenty days of activities left. Time to get it going! First up; make a water blob!