Growing own food painfully hard work

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Talk about sore. I feel like I just rode a horse across half the state. Actually, though, my bowlegged walking this week was caused by my garden and a fervent desire to grow my own veggies. Not to mention my wife, who has been hounding me for the past three years to grow a garden instead of a magnificent stand of weeds.

My grandfather, George Fletcher, picked a great spot for a garden – about the only place in the backyard that’s free of ledge.

It got that way, though, through his hard work and that of my grandmother, Doris Fletcher, who removed so many rocks they built a stone wall between the backyard and woods.

My grandparents were from another era, one that exuded toughness. They both worked day jobs, but found time to garden.

They grew nearly everything well: potatoes, parsnips, asparagus, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, squash, zucchini, spinach, lettuce, pole beans, peas, corn, carrots, tomatoes, green peppers, onions, radishes, strawberries, and the occasional herb or two.

And then, I come along in 1981, returning to my birth state from Arizona after graduating from college. Of my five siblings, I was the only one born in Maine, at Rumford.

My grandfather was dying of cancer at the time and would pass away two years later.

I returned to help them work the gardens (they also grew flowers) and the yard, and care for the house while looking after them for my mother, their adopted daughter.

In my early years of getting acquainted with gardening after coming from an alien land of cactus, rattlesnakes, and spring and summer heat in the 120-plus degree F. range, I really could have used one of those Gardening for Dummies books.

I mean, you really should have seen the horrified look on my grandmother’s face after I mistook the asparagus for weeds and proudly uprooted them just to show my weeding prowess. I’d never seen asparagus before.

Or, the time I rototilled the parsnip patch that same spring and thought I’d discovered a gnarly pile of rocks that my grandparents had missed. I didn’t realize the darn things are left in the ground through the winter for spring harvest.

Those memories flooded back this Fourth of July, the day I began planting this year’s crops. Way late, I know, but then, with climate change, I figure I’ve got plenty of time. I didn’t have a garden the past three years, because I’m still dealing with my grandmother’s death of old age shortly after the Red Sox won the World Series.

Despite The Great Asparagus Massacre and the Parsnip Homicides, my grandmother patiently taught me all the ins and outs of gardening.

But, my grandparents may have gotten their revenge for those two gardening mishaps and others I won’t mention, by having me rototill the upper potato garden for years before I wised up and planted poppies and glads there instead.

That section is mostly this layer of prime sandy loam atop ledge. Tilling that with the gas-powered rototiller every spring was the only thing I ever dreaded about gardening, because the vibrations from constantly hitting ledge shook me like a rag doll no matter how much I beefed up my muscles.

If you ever want to punish someone, turn them loose with a rototiller on a garden of ledge.

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