A Flower Freak is born – or how I started gardening.

Stick with me here.  I need to set the scene.

It all began in San Fransisco, 1965.  A Minnesota woman and a Missouri man.

This is the year it first became legal for married couples to use contraception.   Think about that for a minute.  I didn’t even know it was ever illegal.  I know the pill came into being in the 60’s, but I didn’t know it was actually illegal.

Civil rights were being fought for.  Men walked in space for the first time.  The Vietnam war was starting.  The mini skirt made it’s debut. The world was in upheaval.

That time period in California was for expanding consciousness and loving everyone.  San Fransisco was the incubator for HIPPIES!

My dad believed it was the beginning of the period of drugs, sex, and rock and roll.  No place to be raising kids.

My mom, well she loved my dad.  So around the time I was four, off to Missouri we moved.

My dad supported his family when we got to Missouri as a hog farmer until about 1972.  The bottom dropped out of the market and my dad went back to surveying.  He worked for someone else, then eventually struck out on his own surveying around Truman Lake.

Surveying is a rugged profession.  You are out in the weather in Missouri.  There is blistering heat in the summer with outrageous humidity.  The winters are not much fun either.  Snow doesn’t usually last but a couple of days, then it melts.

But if you aren’t out in it, you aren’t getting paid.  So there are lots of days in long underwear and stocking hats with your nose running continuously.

The point of all this is my dad was what you would call a man’s man.  He was rugged and enjoyed man things.  He loved to build things.  He was an avid fisherman, tying his own flies.  We watched every mountain-man movie there was. Oh, and John Wayne.  My dad still loves every old western that comes on.

I know my dad kept a garden most of the time I was growing up.  I don’t remember being around that much.  I’m sure there were short stints where I was supposed to hoe, or I wouldn’t avoid it so much!  But actual memories of participating in planting or weeding or harvesting?  Not so much.

There was no little April on his knee learning planting with the moon wisdom.  No sage advise from an elder.   I never sat on the porch snapping beans with a grandmother.

My mother kept some house plants, but no interest in being out in the yard growing vegetables or flowers.

What I do remember is being in the bathroom looking at my dad’s choice of reading material.   There were Mother Earth News magazines and Organic Gardening.  Yep.  They have been around that long!  And these were the original Mother Earth News from the early days.   The cool ones!  Tons of information crammed in on newsprint type paper.

In researching this post, I discovered that Organic Gardening magazine does not exist anymore.  I am sad to learn that.  Rodale, the publisher, rebranded in  2015.  The new name is Rodale’s Organic Life.

I never questioned my dad’s interest in these magazines until I was an adult.   It is hard to reconcile my blue-collared dad subscribing to back-to-the-land hippy literature.  It was pretty unconventional in agricultural Missouri to be reading that organic stuff in the 70’s.

So I was not indoctrinated into gardening at a young age.  I tried my hand at house plants as a young mother, but was convinced I had a black thumb.  I would tell people that.  I was horrible at remembering to water my plants.

It all started with some concrete blocks my dad had.  I was living in a older trailer and I was trying to spiff things up.  He said I could use his concrete blocks and suggested I line them down my covered porch and plant flowers in them.  I was up for the challenge!

Those things are heavy!  I don’t remember where the dirt came from to fill them.  I guarantee I didn’t buy any.  By this time I had 3 kids and there wasn’t extra money for dirt.  I’m sure I bought the flowers in stages.

I lucked out and chose something that worked in shade.  It was a miracle, because I didn’t know ANYTHING!  I started with impatiens.  Pink impatiensWhich is funny now cuz they describe me to a T.  That may be why I chose them, for their funny name.

They are a shade-loving flower that are tough as rocks as long as you remember to water them.  I had a variety of colors and they brightened everything up.  Those flowers made me smile every time I pulled into the driveway of that ragtag trailer.

And awakened a gardening addiction.  An addiction that is nearly as bad as any drug problem or gambling addiction.  I cannot drive by a greenhouse without checking it out.  I buy seeds and horde them.

The next year we built a couple of raised beds and I planted some roses.  I tried growing some flowers from seed.  It was the 80’s and dried flowers were making a come-back.  So I grew straw flowers and statice.  You hardly ever see them anymore.

I wasn’t really too interested in growing vegetables until after my mother was diagnosed with cancer.  Then an alarm went off in my heart and I needed to make sure my kids didn’t eat all the chemicals that went into their store bought food.

Shortly after she passed away, we bought a small house and moved.  My dad also sold everything to help pay for her expenses and moved to Wyoming to be with the cowboys and mountain men.

I was super excited about having a garden in the back yard.  For my birthday in April, my husband rented a tiller and tilled up the whole back yard.

I had gigantic plans.  I also had gigantic trees lining both sides of our narrow yard that leafed out in May.  I tried valiantly to grow tomatoes and peppers in the shade.  Take it from me, it doesn’t work near as well as I wanted it to.

After that, I moved my garden to the front yard.  Now it is more common.  But in the 90’s in middle America, I raised some eyebrows.  But I didn’t care.  Gardening makes my soul glow.  Try and stop me!

I’ve since moved on and gardened in more backyards, side yards, and front yards.  I’ve battled deer, racoon, groundhogs, squirrels, birds,  and turtles.  Yes, turtles.  And they all won.

And I have cried, and cussed.  Oh my goodness, I have cussed.  Still, there is nothing more I would rather do.  The next day I am out there with my hands in the dirt and my ears full of bird song.

My wish is that you try it too!  Like every other thing out there that’s worth doing, it ain’t easy.  But it is soooo worth it.






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