Growing up, I lived in an enormous house that my dad built with his own two hands. Both the back and front yard had a tremendous amount of freshly mowed grass to play on and a playground in the back, that was greatly appreciated by my three siblings and I. We lived a life that was strictly based on outdoor activities. No matter what the climate consisted of, we bundled up in the snow and we slapped on sunscreen during the hotter days.
I remember one beautiful spring day my siblings and I were playing whiffle ball in our back yard when my mom came marching down the back deck stairs, a bin overflowing with various gardening instruments nuzzled in her arms. She headed towards a patch of dirt in the corner of the yard and yelled for all of us to come to her. We circled around the patch of dirt and she said, “We are going to get our hands dirty and plant some flowers, whether you all like it or not.” That’s when we got to work.
Every day after school my siblings and I were allowed to watch a half hour of television including a snack, then we were told to report to the backyard to help my mom on the flower garden. I would always wear these pastel pink gardening gloves that ended up molding to my small hands by the time the garden was finished. Most of the time I would play with the worms and dig holes in unnecessary places, my mom was more lenient with my gardening duties, seeing as I was the youngest.
A few months had passed and our job was done, we had cleaned up a dusty old corner in our gigantic backyard and devoted it to this colorful canvas of flora. There were tulips, bleeding hearts, daises etc. exploding with beauty. I think that one of the best moments that came out of that garden was seeing how happy my mom was after accomplishing such a tedious and time consuming task, bringing her children together to create something so undeniably gorgeous.
Growing up, my parents worked a lot and when I wasn’t in school, they would send me to my grandparent’s house in Weymouth. My Nana and Papa always loved having me come over to hang out with them. We would play board games or look at old pictures of my dad as a child, but on sunny days my Nana would take me out to garden with her in the side- yard. Along the side of their home, she had a beautiful garden filled with many vegetables, fruits, and flowers. It smelled so beautiful and sometimes I would even be able to eat some ripe strawberries or tomatoes with her.
One year, on a beautiful Saturday in the Spring, my Nana and I went out to plant some daffodils. What we hadn’t realized was that above the garden under the gutter of the house, their was a bee’s nest and the pesky insects were swarming around that day. My Nana decided to let me water the plants that day too, and I was so excited because she had never trusted me with the hose before. I was holding the hose waiting for the water to come spouting out of the end and then, things went wrong.
My Nana had good reasoning behind not allowing me to water the plants before this day, and after this day, I wasn’t ever allowed to do it again. With the combination of the powerful hose and my noodle arms, I had lost control of it and water was flying everywhere. Normally, this wouldn’t have been such a problem with it happening outside and the weather being so warm. But, while my Nana was laughing at me trying to gain control back, she had not realized the water was spraying straight into the bee’s nest.
The bee’s became infuriated that someone was disturbing their lives and ruining their home, and they wanted revenge. Once my Nana had realized what was happening, she called out my name and told me to run as if my life depended on it, which it really did because I’m allergic to bee’s. The angry insects came flying at my Nana and I and we were running all around the yard to avoid getting stung. All I knew was that I would be okay because my Nana couldn’t run fast, but I could. Safe to say I haven’t gardened with Nana since that day.
Growing up in Franklin, Massachusetts I never drove by acres and acres of cornfields when taking family drives as a kid. The only kind of farm I ever knew was the Big Apple Farm in my neighboring town of Wrentham. Their few hills of apple trees and couple fields of blueberry bushes is the sight I recall when I think of a farm. It is a small farm owned and operated by a local family who’s busiest season is August for blueberry picking, and September into October for apple picking. They sell other locally grown crops like tomatoes, lettuce, strawberries, pumpkins, and corn on the cob.
Last summer, I travelled to a family wedding in Apple Valley, Minnesota. Ironically in Apple Valley, most four way intersections were surrounded not by apple orchards, but with massive cornfields. Everywhere I drove, I would look left and right to see nothing but rows of corn stalks. These were “real” farms compared to the few acre apple orchard in my neck of the woods. During my few day stay, the one surprising fact I learned from my cousin about these corn fields was that almost all of the corn grown in those fields is not the variety you find for sale at grocery stores or roadside stands. This corn is used mainly as feed for livestock. Before learning this, I thought all corn was the same. My parents always bought corn on the cob from roadside stands during summer vacations back at home.
So if you are planning a trip to Apple Valley, Minnesota this fall with the hopes of going apple picking, I’m afraid you’re in the wrong neighborhood. However, if you find your way to my neighborhood, the Big Apple Farm is the perfect place for picking six different variety of apples, and a few ears of corn.
Growing up my family had a nice little garden along the back of our garage. Every year my brother and I got to pick out specific plants that my mom would grow in the garden but my mom had her own favorites that we got every year. She always did tomatoes and they would grow almost as high as the roof of the garage. The time of year when they would each start to turn red was the best because it meant that all the fruits and vegetables would be ready to eat soon. The garden was never fenced in or anything so my brother, my dog and I could roam around our backyard and go into the garden. One year right about the time that the tomatoes started to turn red and everyone was getting their hopes up for the first garden tomato and we had our eyes on the first one to be ready. It was a nice big red tomato that was only a couple days away from being picked. Then the next day it was gone. My family started pointing fingers and accusing someone of eating it or picking it but no one would confess. A couple days go by and more tomatoes start to get red and the original tomato was more or less forgotten about. About the time of the next tomato being ripe it too went missing. Now everyone was perplexed as to what was happening. As soon as the tomatoes would get really close to ripe they were disappearing. Then another plant fell victim to the mysterious fruit thief when mom noticed cucumbers that had massive bites taken out of them. This is when we realized that there were other suspects that had yet to be considered. We then watched my dog through the window of our kitchen one time when we let him out and watched him ever so gently pluck tomatoes off the vine. At the time my Uncle Rob was in town who thought he had a great idea on how to stop the dog from eating tomatoes. He hollowed out a tomato and filled it with hot sauce and cayenne pepper spice. We left the tomato in the garden where my dog had just eaten a tomato. The next time we let him out everyone watched my dog walk up eat the tomato without hesitation. In no way did the dog seem the least bit bothered. Needless to say we got a fence installed.
Growing up, both my mother and grandfather kept small seasonal gardens that my two siblings and I would often help with whatever they needed. Growing things like carrots, cucumbers, peppers, and tomatoes every year for a solid 10 we had the routines in the spring and fall to do the little gardens both my mom and grandfather wanted. My mom, who grew up, lived, and worked on a farm selling their produce for all their income and wanted us kids to I guess see how it all works and to an extent have somewhat of an idea on the basics of growing these few vegetables.
Considering my grandparents have been in the same house for over sixty years, having my father and aunt also live their created the opportunity for new people and families to be met and that is how my family gardens have stood out to me. My grandfathers friends who sons all became my dads friends would have dinner at my grandfathers house every other Sunday and it went on for a few years. This was when i was younger but it was cool to see how the food my grandfather grew in a way brought people together with what was fifteen feet away from the table where we would sit and eat it. Unfortunately now this hasn’t been the case for quite a few years but i can definitely say my siblings and i all took something from this in more than learning how to grow your own food, but also a new way to interact, create relationships, and learn.
While many people might not think of ever vacationing in the Mid-West, I have fond memories of spending time in Iowa, Minnesota, and Nebraska for many summers ever since I was born. My mom is from Iowa, and many of her relatives still live there. I look forward to going seeing grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins each year. While some people might consider the Mid-West “boring” and have no interest in going, I would recommend it to those who want a change of scenery from urban life and to those who have any interest in seeing farming done on a large scale. No matter where you go, you can’t escape wide fields of crops or animals; the highways are lined with farm land and barns. There’s a large cornfield along my grandparent’s street. I always enjoy seeing the landscape because it’s so different from the Massachusetts scenery that I’m familiar with, and it’s beautiful in its own way in the Summer when everything is at peak growing season. It’s serene to look out on the highway and be able to see farm land for miles because Iowa is fairly flat with rolling hills.
During my trips to Iowa, my extended family and I have traveled to many different types of farms. I’ve held baby goats and walked through real corn mazes, ones not merely put up in the Fall for fun. I’ve seen acres of soy farms (Iowa is the largest producer of soy in the country) and Amish people selling their produce at farmers markets. You don’t realize how truly big farming operations can get until you go to a place like Iowa. Farming is a livelihood for many people there, and they have it down to a science.
A couple of years ago we went to a llama farm, where we got to feed and pet around 13 llamas. The older couple who owned the farm sheared them for their wool. While it might seem like llamas are a very unconventional animal to have on a farm, there were no other animals on their land, and they had been raising these llamas for years. They’re very docile, and they were really cute and soft! If you ever have the chance to visit any part of the Mid-West, even for a short time, take it. It’ll give you a window into a way of life that’s unfamiliar to those of us on the East Coast, and you’ll appreciate the time, space, and craft that it takes to farm for a living.
My family has had a garden for as long as I can remember. It has been a big part of my childhood, and something that I can look look back on that always brings a smile to my face. My dad, Tom is always in charge of our garden, he puts in the most hours weeding, watering, and harvesting all the vegetables that we grow. He would always walk back to the house with his hands full of peppers, cucumbers, zucchini, and his hat full of cherry tomatoes because he’d always forget to bring a bowl out. The ongoing joke between my neighbors and my family is calling my dad “Farmer Tom” because he loves the garden so much, always holding a full garden tour whenever a new vegetable begins to sprout.
One of my fondest memories of the garden is the year the we decided to grow pumpkins. We didn’t have high expectations of the pumpkins because it is tough for a first time crop to take off right away. Regardless of any expectations, our goal was to be able to make at least one jack-o-lantern out of our home grown pumpkins. For awhile we had nothing, and we all grew skeptical whether we would get any pumpkins at all, let alone one big enough to carve. One day after school, my siblings and I come home to find my dad back in the garden, this wasn’t uncommon at all. After we set our bags down, there was a note on the counter from my dad saying to come back to the garden. We put our mud shoes on and head back. When we get back there, my dad eagerly shows us the pumpkins. There were 3 pumpkins, still very small, but it was the first life of pumpkins we’ve seen since we planted them. We are all excited to see them, but more excited to see the reaction of my dad because we knew how much he wanted a homemade jack-o-lantern. As time passed the pumpkins continued to grow, there was no sign of any rotting and the pumpkins looked very healthy.
The pumpkins finally were big enough for us to harvest them. Not only did we get one but we got three, one for my brother, my sister, and myself. To say my dad was happy was an understatement. I still vividly remember covering the table with newspapers, scooping out the insides of the pumpkins, separating the seeds from the orange goo so that we could make pumpkin seeds. Then having my dad help us all carve our pumpkins because it was just as much fun for us as it was for him. It was a day full of smiles and trying to sneak up on my mom to rub our gooey, pumpkin covered hands on her to get a laugh out of everyone. It is a day that I will never forget, and one that I hope to recreate when I have a family and I’m in my dads shoes.
For as long as I can remember, my Nanu (grandfather in Sicilian) has always been obsessed with his garden; from his eggplants and sunflowers, to his mint and cabbage. He would spend countless hours digging and weeding, making sure that every inch of his garden was alive and thriving. At the start of every spring my father and I would go help my Nanu in his garden, just about every other week or so. This was a tradition we held up for 17 years, until my grandfather was unable to care for his garden anymore.
One of my fondest memories from that time was when my Nanu introduced me to cherry tomatoes. It was my first time working in his garden, and me being the curious creature I was I just had to ask what every single plant was. Most of the plants already bloomed, and were showing off their bounty; the one that caught my eye was the cherry tomatoes. I asked my Nanu what these red and yellow balls were, and he laughed at me and asked me if I was born under a rock. We walked over to the plant and told me that they were cherry tomatoes. He plucked one off its vine and placed it in my hand. “Try it” he said, my four year old self was a bit apprehensive about this foreign object I was about to ingest, So I made my Nanu eat one first just to make sure it wasn’t poison. Once I concluded that I wasn’t about to die from food poisoning, I popped the tomato in my mouth. Believe me when I tell you it was love at first bite. It wasn’t my first tomato product, but it was my first whole tomato, my first plain and simple tomato. When my my Nanu wasn’t looking I snuck a couple more tomatoes in my mouth, and then maybe a few more a minute later. I had become obsessed. From then on every time I helped my Nanu in the garden he would always ask me to do a product test on the tomatoes, to make sure they weren’t poison. Which I can confirm they were not poison.
Throughout my childhood, I was often at my grandparents house in Carver, Massachusetts. At their house, they had many acres of land that my sisters and I would always love to explore. We would ride the golf cart my grandfather owned around all day to find something new to discover. On top of all the land they had, there was also about seven cranberry bogs. Every year, up until I was around fourteen or fifteen, my entire family would help harvest the cranberries.
Cranberries are harvested through a process called flooding. Each of the bogs is entirely flooded with around 15-18 inches of water the night before they are set to be harvested. Once the day came, my family would use these devices called water reels to help separate the cranberry from their vines. Then, my grandfather would climb aboard this giant harvesting machine and drive around the bogs scooping up all the cranberries. I can remember being amazed at the entire process and not truly realizing how much work went into it until I saw it with my own eyes. I usually only watched my dad, grandfather, and uncle really do all the work to gather the cranberries, but it was something I definitely looked forward to every single year. After all the cranberries are collected, they are loaded into crates, then shipped to Ocean Spray, the company my grandfather sold his crops too.
This tradition was something that was always a long but fun day with my family. We would always end the day with a big dinner, and it was usually had a lot to do with cranberry flavored items. This is really the first memory I had to anything garden related really, but it was something that was kind of unique to me. Not a lot of people get to experience and see the actual process of this harvest, and it was always a great time.
I come from Lynn, a “small” bustling city with little to no area where a person can grow something. I say “small” because it is a mere 10.8 square miles wide, yet it has a population of 94,000 people. This causes there to be absolutely no room for a traditional farm. In fact, most people live in very cramped apartments or multi families that have no backyard. No one in the city has taken to farming because of this, so I grew up knowing nothing about agriculture. In fact, I didn’t even know pickles were cucumbers until this class enlightened me. If you asked my friends to name any type of crop besides the most common ones the answer will be I don’t know dude.
My father attempted to start a garden for a very long time, but the quite literal fruits of his labor were never too grand. The only fruits and vegetables he was able to successfully grow in my rocky, full of dead grass backyard were very small, often not quite ripe tomatoes and these strange tiny cucumbers. The only reason he was able to successfully garden was because he placed good soil he purchased into a crevice of a rock in our backyard that was a few feet deep. This was our garden, about maybe ten inches of prime gardening turf. Anything grown anywhere else in my house would immediately wilt and die like even the plants didn’t like the natural lynn soil.
At the edge of my property is the power lines, a long, not too wide strip of basically bare wilderness with trees that all look like they are close to death. In the back left of my house is a massive grey rock covered with moss, that has a flat top where one can sit. Behind this hiding spot, is a hidden gem. There are about three different wild blueberry shrubs where we can pick blueberries when they bloom in the summer. They explode with flavor into your mouth, and are extremely juicy. It’s strange in such a barren land these grow with such excellence. They are by far the highlight of the summertime, and they let us know summer is in full swing.
I’m lucky to have a small area where I can grow-most of the members of my community do not have this blessing. They would have to follow in Novella’s footsteps and become urban farmers, but in Massachusetts the growing season is drastically reduced due to the weather. Only hardy plants can survive here, unless they are summer harvesting plants. It makes it harder here, but people should still enjoy the simple, rewarding joys of gardening.