My only artistic skills bloom in the vegetable garden. In fact, my elementary school art teacher handed me the only “C” in my schooling career.
At home, the soil serves as my canvas and seeds my paintbrush. In the winter, I sketch my vegetable garden plans on grid paper. When spring arrives, I plant and watch the miracle of how a tiny seed produces food. The buttonweed and lambsquarter weeds surround my miracle, but I remove their first rush, and the garden’s beauty reigns.
Mom has been my garden teacher since my earliest childhood memories. I always knew spring was near when she started to prepare the soil. I followed Mom’s every footstep while she guided the tiller, which turned the crusty brown surface into a soft, black bed for vegetable seeds and plants. As soon as Mom’s heel lifted, I put mine down in her footprint. I stretched my stride to reach each one. We paced back and forth across the garden soil, slower than a bride gliding down the aisle.
Today, I realize my entertainment also caused soil compaction, but Mom allowed it. I will, too, when my daughter is old enough to make the strides. The activity will occupy time, but more importantly she will learn as I did from the garden. Weeds will grow back if you only pull the tops. Broccoli-colored worms will try to eat the broccoli. Garden-fresh tomatoes far outflavor those on a store shelf.
For many sunsets, I grab lemonade and step outside to gaze at the evening glow on the garden plants I painted across the soil. Then, I feel smart for eating fresh food and for the self-sufficiency my masterpiece provides.
Twice I have overcome reasons to buy my produce at the grocery store. When we first married, my husband and I lived in town with a garden-less yard. We removed an area of sod only to uncover clay soil too wet for gardening but, determined to plant green peppers, bought lumber and hauled soil from my parents’ farm. In a small raised bed, we owned the only sweet corn and green bean plants on the block.
Another year, I gave birth to our second child when I would have been planting red-skinned potatoes. A month after delivery, Grandma watched our toddler and newborn as I tilled the garden. I pulled off a successful green bean and zucchini crop, but planted those early-season peas a few weeks too late for high yields.
That didn’t matter to me. After all, you have to make footsteps if you want them to be followed.