Giving Up the Garden


First appeared in Grainews in September 2019
This spring, I stood in Mom’s back yard with a wheelbarrow and a shovel, digging out all the soil in her raised beds. “Take it all,” she urged when I slowed down. “I’m done with it.”

“Not even a potful of lettuces?” I asked, thinking of the preceding summer, when she’d grown more lettuces than she and Dad could eat, and wound up giving much of the produce away to me and my salad-loving crew.

“Not even,” she replied.

So I dug out all the soil and hauled it all home, where it now nurtures several new vines on the south wall of the house, and adds its good character to amend the skin-flint soil in the herb bed to the north of the kitchen door. Good soil is never a waste of time to haul home.

Mom’s 83 this year, and intent on divesting herself of what she can no longer manage. It means she’s also made me and several others dig up half the raspberry canes in her raspberry patch. I brought my share of canes home and dug them into my own patch. Mom’s raspberry patch was famous among us raspberry lovers, a magnificent, lush, prolific patch that bore eloquent testimony to the power of regular watering.

After I’d dug in the new canes, I stood back to evaluate my own patch – a modest and unsheltered affair, open to the ravages of the west wind, devoid of the irrigation system Dad had labouriously installed in their patch in town. Remember to water it more regularly, I told myself. But I didn’t, and all summer, my raspberries were small thimbles, far removed from the thumb-print-sized berries I’d picked in Mom’s garden for years.

Mom’s a natural-born gardener, with green thumbs on both hands. She’s tended a garden patch of one sort or another all her life – as a mother of five hungry kids, as a field boss in a busy truck garden on Vancouver Island, and as a market gardener who took her produce to the farmer’s market in Saskatoon. True to her Depression-era raising, she has always frozen all her gardens’ provender, putting food by for winter before she eats any fresh. Next year, as I have this summer, I will bring salad greens and vegetables to her and Dad. And maybe, if I remember to water more faithfully, fresh raspberries.

If life is a garden, then my mother is welcoming its late autumn and coming winter with the same grace and good humour that has seen her through 83 years. So first we eat, then we freeze any leftover berries.
dried herbs
“Take it all,” she urged when I slowed down. “I’m done with it.”


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