There is an old saying that “each generation gets wiser and weaker”.  My experience with gardening is a clear example.

My parents were born in the 20’s and 30’s in Mississippi. (Daddy in 1924 in Liberty, and Momma in 1930 in McComb).  Their rural/farming upbringing and formal education in Agriculture (Daddy) and Home Economics (Momma), gave them a deep love and dedication to things natural.  They kept it close. 

1973 picture of Momma’s plants by
 her front door.

Daddy plowed up the landscaping in our south side Chicago backyard and planted the most beautiful and productive vegetable garden. It seemed that Momma planted something green everywhere there was good ground and access to water and sunlight. Since Daddy’s passing 25 years ago, Momma keeps the garden going with a stronger focus on flowers over edibles.   At the age of 81, she still gets out there and regularly puts in 4-5 hours weeding, watering, fertilizing etc.   The activity helps her physically and it brings her joy.   She sees God in His creation (Romans 1:20, Psalms 19:1-4).  Every time I talk to her, she shares what’s sprouting or blooming, her next steps and she asks what I am doing in my yard.
My response –  “Ummm… nothing.”  Then a list of excuses reasons why I’ve haven’t done much. My husband Will does a beautiful job with the lawn but the design and upkeep of the flower beds and garden would be my thing.  They’ve been pretty bare, (pretty pitiful actually), so this year, I went into Home and Country mode and decided to get it going.
The initial plan was to get it professionally landscaped and I’d tend to and maintain it.  When 3 estimates came in around the cost of a compact car, I decided to break the task into multiyear phases and do it myself.   This year, I’d knock out the 1,400 square feet of landscaping in the 3 most publically visible beds. Nothing fabulous, just cleaned up and enough planted across the front to show we care, plus an herb and vegetable plot in the bed by the entrance to the kitchen. Next year I’d follow one of the custom landscaping designs we’d purchased, and make it really beautiful with tons of flowering foliage across the front.  The beds along the back and other side of the house were slotted for 2014. 
In my head, this is how this year’s jump start would go:
After the plant and supply shopping, I’d devote 2 partial days to the project – max.  I’d wear a cute, loose flowy linenish gardening outfit – to keep cool; a cute super large floppy hat – to block the sun; and gardening shoes with cute gloves and a matching apron – to hold my tools.  Cute right???
I’d play soft music in the background and keep a pitcher of iced cucumber water nearby for refreshment.  A lovely and relaxing Bea Smith gardening experience this would be.
In reality, here’s how it’s going:
So far, the 2 partial days have expanded into 6 – and I’m still not finished.
By day 2, I was wearing my husband’s old t-shirts – to keep cool; baseball caps – to block the sun; and all-weather shoe boots, men’s tube socks and heavy duty work gloves – for protection from fire ants.  They tore me up that first day.
For refreshment, I was drinking from the water hose and the musical accompaniment was me humming Negro spirituals, (yes Alicia N. – it got to that point!), as I dug and pulled and raked and shoveled and fertilized and planted and mulched and installed above ground irrigation.   
This is some hard butt work!    How in the world, did our ancestors do this!?!  Not just a few hours here and there, but all day everyday.
I consider myself to be in somewhat decent physical condition – I mean, I can knock out a strong Pilates core routine, and run for 4-5 hours at a time.  Puleaze!  I just had to giggle at the realization that my 81 year old mother can outwork me in the productive outdoor activity of gardening.
I just SMH considering how our intellectual and technologically advanced generation spends huge amounts of time and money creating activities and regimens to move, stretch and strengthen our bodies.  Benefits our ancestors got from living life.
Further I get a VSF thinking forward to the next even more technologically advanced generation.   Many kids nowadays, (mine included), act as if simply being unplugged and outside without temperature control for more than a few hours at a time is an endurance activity.
Each generation gets wiser and weaker…”   I clearly see the weaker and sometimes I wonder about the wiser…
I thank God for the experience and examples of my parents and grandparents.   We can learn so much from our elders. Many of their old ways of living are simply better ways of living.
Yes, this gardening is hard work. 
Yes, I’m tired. 
No, I cannot honestly say I am loving this part of the experience.   But I do truly love and appreciate the many memories I have of playing alongside my Daddy as he worked in our garden.  It’s bringing tears to my eyes as I type…   I love that in my childhood, when I wanted a snack, I could pluck a tomato or cucumber off the vine, wipe it on my pants and chomp on down.   I loved sitting in the kitchen with my Momma snapping bowls and bowls of green beans we’d picked earlier that day. I love the pride and joy I’d see in her face as she served greens or speckled butter beans, stewed okra or fried green tomatoes, canned tomatoes, pickles or chow-chow – she made from the yield of her garden.   I love seeing the peace Momma still finds when she spends time in her yard.
I want my children to have some of these memories.  Through gardening with me, I want them to experience a connection with simplicity and nature.  By repeating the practices of my parents and grandparents, I pray that they see and feel connection to them and more importantly, a connection to God.
I’ll try to periodically post status on the garden.  Pray with me that I don’t kill it all. 

Do you garden?  If so, please share what you plant, your best practices (and warnings for a relative newbie) and what you love the most about the experience.

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