Aug. 3, 2012: Garden yields memories & friendship along with veggies, by Janet G. Chapman

August 3, 2012 by

One of my earliest childhood memories is about gardens.

My mother, a typical farm wife, had a pretty good-sized garden and depended on it all summer for fresh vegetables. Her garden was across the creek and up close to our fat cattle lots. She’d load me into the little red wagon and off we’d go, usually right after breakfast so we could make the trip and still be back in time to cook dinner for the men.

My jobs in the garden were pretty simple. I was assigned potato bug patrol and given an old tin can for the bugs I found. After patrol duties, I could look for tomatoes or cucumbers and pick zinnias and sweet peas. As I grew, she taught me how to help her plant and weed the garden.

On the way back to the house, Mama and I would float cucumber boats down the creek while I waded in the sparkling clear creek water. These memories cheer me and affirm the goodness of life and love when I recall them. They remind me of peaceful, protected days in my childhood.

The memories encouraged me when I was a young mother to find little ordinary ways with which to connect with me own children and build that loving place in our hearts that we share. These precious memories have reassured me of the love my mother gave me and affirmed the loving presence of God.

I am told that the value we place on our parents’ guidance and training is determined by what we choose to teach to our own children — and gardening was something I taught my children.

I’ve always had a garden of some sort. My children helped although sometimes it was after the moaning and groaning. We all remember the year we raised so many peas there was plenty to freeze and we had fresh peas all winter long. Another year, we raised so many watermelons we took them around to neighbors who did not have a garden.

Thus, the garden taught my children and me many lessons. We learned to value the foods we could preserve and enjoy later. How fresh they tasted and how much better they were nutritionally than anything we could buy.

The garden also taught us a little bit about being generous and respecting our older and less able neighbors by sharing our abundance with them. Generosity is a characteristic that celebrates God’s love for us while it benefits both the giver and the receiver and makes the sense of peaceful community a reality.

This year, I’ve been blessed with access to a particularly good garden spot. The soil is superb in texture and composition. The location is sheltered from the strong hot winds for which Kansas is famous.  There’s a shady place to rest and good water for drinking and irrigating. It’s a quiet and peaceful place.

But the best thing about this garden is the companionship I’ve found, sharing and working with someone who likes to garden as much as I do. Gardening is a very good way to develop friendship.

That was all part of the thinking in 2009 when the Sisters of Saint Joseph created a spot on their property for the Concordia Community Garden of Hope.

People can sign up for a spot and pay a nominal fee. In return they have access to good soil, water and lots of sunlight, and the chance to experience the joys that gardening brings.

It is amazing how much food can be grown on each plot and each plot is as unique as the persons who are gardening. Many gardeners reserve a little spot for lovely old-fashioned flowers so there’s a feast for the eyes as well.

There is a special sense of community that develops among those gardening as people share their ideas and experiences. People make a habit of just driving by to enjoy watching the vegetables grow. In its own quiet way, the Community Garden provides an opportunity to celebrate God’s loving presence through the abundance of good natural foods raised without chemicals or preservatives and the peace that is memorable in the lives of the gardeners and others who are touched by this tranquil experience.

And by the way, it’s not too soon to consider having a plot in the Community Garden next year.  If you are interested, contact Cecilia Thrash at Manna House, 243-4428.

 — Janet G. Chapman is executive director of Mount Joseph Senior Village in Concordia, and is a CSJ Associate.




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