Respect for the Debilities of Age
This Week in Elder News – 16 May 2009

Childhood Memories and My Recession Garden

category_bug_journal2.gif Even though I got to the farmers' market on Wednesday by 8:30AM, the arugula was gone and it's too early in the season for there to be much other food; I didn't need onions. But there were plenty of plantings available so I bought some lettuce, scallions, green peppers and sweet basil to grow in containers on my deck this year.

At the garden nursery yesterday, I picked up some new pots, additional potting soil, a pair of gardening gloves and a couple of flowering plants to brighten up the vegetables. These will go along with the vines, candy-corn-colored snapdragons and a few other flowers I've grown from seed in the past couple of months.

The strawberries I'm growing in hanging bags arrived from the seed company last week, as did the blueberry bush they say will produce 10 pounds of berries over the season. Blueberries went for $7.50 a pint last year and I paid $7 for the bush, so even if they are exaggerating and I get five pounds, I win.

Or, maybe not. It is still too chilly to hang out on my deck, so a couple of days after potting up the blueberry bush, I went out to check on it and half was missing, chewed off by a @#$%^& squirrel.

I never had squirrels on the deck before, but then I never grew food before either. I've now attached some thin, plastic webbing around the plant, but those furry little buggers have thumbs, you know, so I suspect there will be war between the squirrels and me this year. I invested three dollars in a big bag of raw, in-the-shell peanuts with which I will to try to distract them. If that fails, I'll shoot them. (Just kidding)

All this put me in mind of my childhood when my mother kept a kitchen garden, a left-over habit, perhaps, from World War II victory gardens. She would send me out to the garden when she was preparing dinner to pull carrots, pick beans or peas, bring in a lettuce or gather sweet peas to put in a vase for the table.

I had earlier helped with the planting and what amazes me today is how much I remember about how to do all this. It's a bit different in that I do container gardening now rather than in the yard and outside of a few pots of flowers, I haven't had much practice in the intervening 60 years – but Mom's lessons are still there.

“Just scatter these seeds on top of the ground.” “Now these seeds have to be planted deeper, like this.” “Ronni, it hasn't rained in a couple of days; you'd better go water the garden.” “Don't forget to salt the slugs or they'll eat our tomatoes.”

What else remains from those years is the wonderment. I remember asking my mother how such big carrots or so many flowers could grow from those tiny, little seeds we stuck in the ground together. She didn't have much of an answer, as I recall, and the question came to mind again this week, moreso now that I'm growing vegetables rather than flowers.

The mystery seems larger to me when I can eat the result that is, quite literally, the fruit of my labor. Outside of some water and a little plant food, it really isn't labor at all. It just happens, like the sun coming up each morning.

I read somewhere once that as we get older, we remember our youth more sharply than we did during our midyears. You couldn't prove that by me, but lately it seems to be happening - and just in time for my recession garden.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Norm Jenson admits a thievery in The Shopping Cart.


Ronni, you brought back many memories this early morning. I love my kitchen garden. I have always had a plot where I could plant in the ground. It has always amazed me how much I can grow in a small area. In this city yard I have a blueberry bush, strawberry plants, garlic, herbs, vegetables and a grape vine on my picket fence. All of this in two years and now my cottage in the country is 80% complete and I am returning HOME.

Ronni--Glad that you're getting some gardening it. It can be very satisfying - particularly when you get to consume the produce!

I'll be amazed if plastic netting keeps a squirrel at bay. Around here, of course, it's hard for me to know how much damage is due to squirrels and how much to raccoons; but, I must use rather large-diameter wire mesh to have an effect. Since I am not container gardening, though, I plant enough for us and for the critters. It is the bird feeders that I have to make extremely sturdy to protect the contents.

Ummm. I just started my garden on my deck with herbs and tomatoes. I love blueberries and strawberries and never thought I could plant them until I read your blog. I will try to get some today to plant.

I have lots of trees surrounding my deck with squirrels. So far no damage but after reading what you said, will try to find some mesh to put on the plants.

I can't wait to use and eat my herbs and vegetables...and maybe some fruit!

Gardening is a passion, learned from Mom who was usually in her garden when we got home from school. There was always something to show us, like a praying mantis, or a new flower.

We'd squat down and examine each tiny creature and wonder how life began.

I remember mom hauling rocks to build a fence on the side of our property, and there were bushes, woods and a small swamp nearby.

We'd watch tadpoles turn into frogs, and milkweed pods with fluff.

Couple years ago I started gardening for a few seniors in my area, as well as keeping my own property looking good. Like mom, I wasn't made to sit around.

Gardening is hard, but satisfying work. I completely zone out, and if someone comes up behind me and says something, I jump.

Don't mind getting my hands dirty. Met so many smart, capable friendly women determined to stay in their homes.

They all have a story. Most of them offer me tea or cookies, and we talk about everything. It's a delight to beauty parlor their garden beds, and then drive by and see the results.

Today, I will work outside, planting my morning glory, hauling my deck boxes, pots and getting some soil, more mulch, compost and some plants.

Montrealers wait until 20th May to plant their annuals. It can still get slightly cold until then.

You should all see how Montreal comes to life the minute snow is gone. All the restos put chairs and tables outside. It's a five star party that does not end until late fall.

Festivals galore.

You should all come for a visit.

The only space we have is a cement patio that is enclosed by a 6ft fence. Container gardening is the only way we can garden. We have expanded quite a bit this year. Last year's tomatoes were absolutely wonderful and have inspired us to plant more. We are also trying to do it on the cheap. Our neighbors threw out a large plastic storage tub and we retrieved it. We now have peppers and lettuce in it. The larger plastic tub that we picked up for $10 last year is planted with tomatoes and lettuce. I also have some sugar snap peas and asparagus beans. I found that plastic milk jugs with the bottom cut out make excellent hot caps (or cloches) and I managed a version of a cold frame using the plastic we took off our windows. It has already been a learning experience and we are looking forward to the harvest.

I loved reading this post. It brings back found memories of my father. He died when I was rather young, so I don’t remember much, but I do remember his garden of which he was so proud. I also recall the scary fig tree wrapped all winter in tar paper and the embarrassing odor of animal manure brought in as fertilizer. Thanks for the memories, Ronni.

Windowsill herb gardens were the rage when I was a child. Mom canned pickles with dill from the garden. During WWII we had a Victory garden and those were the years that veggies tasted the best. I miss having fresh produce.

The extreme heat makes gardening difficult here so, after many tries, my husband gave up on edible plants and concentrated on flowers.

I suspect most of us have a bit of metaphorical dirt that shows up under our fingernails this time of year. Hope your till yields enough fruit to justify your labor. We always donate our cherry trees to the birds and some of our flowers and strawberries to the squirrels and rabbits. That way we sort of coexist without much effort on the part of either us or them. (After all, they've gotta feed their younguns & themselves, too, and without any money a'tall.)

What a wonderful spring post! It inspires me to take a look at the possibilities here...BTW I wouldn't put any peanuts out for the squirrels, Ronni. That will just bring more of them over to your house as they tend to brag to each other about such bounty... or so I found out when I used to feed them peanuts out a certain window only to have them return with friends and what appeared to be distant relatives and they began gnawing on the window sill for entrance into my place! Nature! Let the festivities begin!

I finally have a sunny garden spot after we took down a lot of high pine trees. I have garlic and onions and peas coming up. Potatoes are planted. Asparagus (just a few) blueberries, raspberries and strawberries. This weekend we'll work on organizing the rest. I started tomatoes from seed, also broccoli, sunflowers and a bunch of other things.
I dry the apples from our trees and freeze them. They are a great snack through the winter. I freeze the tomatoes and sun dry them. I love getting my own fresh vegetables and fruit.

Wonderful! Am sure you'll enjoy your garden and the produce you'll harvest.

There's a group here that is encouraging people to convert their yards, including front yards, into food producing gardens as some have done. That can produce another set of problems with wildlife. Before uninformed pruning killed our peach tree we had visitors invade our attic -- fruit rats we learned. That was an experience!

Some time ago it crossed my mind that if you could enclose your patio with mesh wire, you could allow Ollie access. His mere presence might discourage the squirrels.

If that's not doable, he's a natural predator. If he could be harnessed so he doesn't hang himself, or provided some safe way to be on your patio, I think the squirrels might be deterred. If the patio is open, at worst he would lay in wait and nature would take its course. Might be a bit messy to clean up(I'm joking.)

I know squirrels are cute, pretty, and cunning, but shoot the little b******s! I understand they're good eating though I don't recall tasting any when family members "harvested" some during my youth. (Oh dear, now I'm going to get hate emails. Really, I'm not a violent person.)

I'm still angry because the squirrels came out of nowhere three years ago after my living here for 30+ years, and steadily destroyed beyond repair all my birdfeeders, also frightening off all my birds.

Am reminded that, also a few years ago, I was getting frustrated that neighbor cats were using the area outside my front door for their personal lavatory. (Just noticed recently they started again.*) Despite everything I tried, nothing stopped them. I purchased a large container of "Critter Ridder" recommended at my hardware/garden store. I still have it, unused, since that was when I ceased to pay attention to a lot of things. I hadn't thought of it 'til now, so I checked on it. I notice it says it works for ridding squirrels, too.

(*Read recently that fresh orange rind pieces or shredded could be scattered about on the ground and that would end their unwanted toiletry habits. I'm trying that now, but will try that commercial product next, if needed, assuming it's still potent.)

Please, folks, I'm not anti-cat, just the ones the owners don't keep at home here in the city. Many is the night we awoke to courting cats fighting under our window and we were thinking it was a baby squalling. Running free for cats is fine for country living. We had a cat from birth until his death at about 16 yrs of age and loved him dearly. He rarely strayed from our yard and we kept him in at night so he wouldn't be crippled and scarred fighting for his life with.

I still have some large patio pots containing several different variety dwarf citrus trees that I finally took note of having survived the past three years of my neglect. My small patch of Sequoia strawberries in the ground have survived also I see. They're the sweetest tasting variety of large strawberries I've ever eaten. I never had to add sugar, but then I don't with what I buy now, either, though they don't have that same level of sweetness. Strawberries have always been my one and only addiction in life. I will need to harvest runners this year for new plants to replace the old and get fruit next year. The berries bloom won't set fruit with temps over 100 degrees which we'll probably have soon.

I have frozen berries whole in years past when available quantities high and prices were low.

Have been surprised my pot of mint has also survived those years of neglect. May plant some yellow and red cherry tomatoes in pots before the season ends. Not sure what else.

Watering can be an issue if I'm away any length of time as no one nearby to assist with that. I purchased hose, etc. to set up a drip system just before I stopped caring for my plants. Maybe I can remember the instructions I was given on setting it up with all the little parts. Occurs to me I might need a timer for it, too. Think our city may be going to institute water rationing here same as adopted by the major water supplier in the city of L.A.

I recall reading about some mail order blueberries a few years ago and had contacted the company to see if there were any I could grow in our climate. They said, "yes," but life intervened and I never ordered any. I'll be interested in how yours do -- if your plant survives the squirrel attack -- but you have a better climate for blueberries, I think.

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