Garden Night

From the Farm:


Published in the Casper Journal July 26, 2011

We hold a special “Garden Family Council” each spring. Sitting around a big table and with my daughter acting as scribe, all of us shout out everything we want to plant in our family garden that year. Tomatoes, beans, corn, carrots, lettuce and radishes are regulars. Some years we’re more daring, adding watermelon, big blue morning glories and Jack-Be-Little pumpkins to our garden wish list.
After the list of “crops” is made, each child chooses two or three vegetables he wants to be exclusively in charge of caring for. Our council ends with the family gathered around a large piece of white butcher paper, drawing a sketch of the future garden and assigning vegetables and caretaker children to specific rows.
I remember my own parents holding a “Garden Family Council” when I was a young girl. It was always very exciting. During the following week, my mom would come home with a new pair of garden gloves for each of us children. We tried them on and modeled them all over the house, dreaming about our future vegetables. Then the warm weather came.
At dinner one evening my parents announced cheerily, “Tonight is garden night!” The response was less than enthusiastic.
“I’m too busy ... Too much homework ... Something on my schedule tonight ...” The list of excuses always went on and on.
“No, tonight is garden night!” my parents would insist. So we grudgingly put away our books or toys, hung up the phone, changed our clothes and went outside.
Our reluctance never lasted for long. The minute we were in the garden the fun began. Talking and laughing together, we’d work on our individual rows — digging, furrowing and planting. We prided ourselves on a straight row and marked each one carefully with a stick and a seed package.
As we worked, we sang songs and talked about the happenings of the day. Outside, with no TV or radio blaring, conversation came easily and family ties grew more quickly than the seeds in the freshly turned earth. When the stars came out, Mom would bring a bucket of ice cream outside and we would lie on the grass, licking ice cream cones and admiring the evening’s work. Satisfied, relaxed and a little bit dirty, we reluctantly went back to homework and evening chores and then to bed.
It’s been several years now since I was a child in the garden with my family. I can hardly believe the passage of time as I gather my own children for a “garden night” one evening.
“I’m tired.” “I want to finish my book.” “We just weeded yesterday!” The initial excuses echo those from my childhood, but we head out into the cool evening anyway. Green peas and corn are poking up through the damp earth.
“Look how big the tomatoes are!” yells my daughter, and everyone runs to inspect. Working together we weed and furrow each row, while the toddlers run freely down the garden paths.
“What’s in the new patch of garden?” asks a friendly neighbor.
“Corn,” smiles my son. “Three thousand seeds!” The numbers make us sound more ambitious than we are, but the anticipation is worth it.
“Six more eggs from the chickens!” shouts my four-year-old. He runs to the kitchen, his hands full of treasure.
“Another robin’s nest!” calls my daughter, pointing to a tree and everyone gathers to welcome the newcomers. As the children talk and laugh together, a smile crosses my lips and a fresh breeze fills my heart.
When the stars come out, we sit on the swing and look down at the river.
“We’re rich,” breathes my daughter.
“Yes,” my husband replies. “We have everything.”
Garden night: a tradition passed down to another generation. A tradition I don’t want to forget.

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